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Hi^.B'digion of Jlwnariity 





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* . - * t 


Set up and electrotyped. 
Published October, 1926. 






Luther Burbank has certainly earned a right to speak 
to the world, in the name of religion as well as in that 
of science. 

He has long been a national figure and, in scientific 
circles, a world figure. 

As a life-long student of science, and as an inde- 
pendent thinker, it was natural that an appeal should 
be made to him for his views on the relation of science 
to religion. His experience has led him far away 
from much that now claims as its own the name of 
Christianity, but which in his mind has absorbed much 
which bears no relation to the teachings of Jesus. 
At the same time he cannot conceive that constantly 
increasing knowledge of the physical universe stands 
in opposition to "pure religion," as shown in lives 
made beautiful and sweet by self-devotion and self- 
restraint and undefiled by subservience to superstition 
and man-made authority. 

The only religion which endures must be hand in 
hand with that science which also endures. 

Luther Burbank was the most noted of all the many 
men engaged, the world over, in plant breeding. 

In the finest of all arts, the production of useful 
and beautiful plants through crossing, selection and 
segregation, his work rests on the teachings of Charles 
Darwin, tested and verified in the sixty-seven years 



since the publication of The Origin of Species by 
thousands on thousands of naturalists, Darwin's col- 
leagues and disciples. 

The conception of organic evolution, or orderly 
change in the succession of living beings, demonstrated 
by Darwin though not originated by him, is now an 
unquestioned part of science, as much so as the theory 
of gravitation. All discussion of life problems, from 
the generation of amcebse to the development of 
human society, must be related to it and more or 
less based upon it. 

But while no one who has seriously studied the 
question of evolution from any angle has any doubts 
of the main principle, there is much divergence of opin- 
ion as to the relative value of the factors which have 
brought about the transmutation of species, and as 
to how this relatively new accession of knowledge may 
affect the religious feelings of humanity, and especially 
the organizations which have grown up around them. 
Every new expansion of knowledge has its effect on 
the time-honored sanctions upon which organizations 
rest or claim to rest. 

The result of all observation and experiment is to 
show two great basal facts: first, that Nature in all 
its ramifications is in process of change; second, that 
all change is orderly: nowhere is there disorder or 
chaos. Thus everywhere and at all times in the uni- 
verse, so far as we know, orderly change is present. 
Nature is, therefore, inseparable from it. Thus Ver- 
non Kellogg has asserted: "Nature and Evolution are 
one and the same thing." As we believe that a cause 
stands before every effect, our highest duty in Nature 


is to find out, so far as we can, how her changes are 
brought about, then to search out, as well as we can, 
the nature and source of the rational order which per- 
vades all phenomena. For in the universe, as Huxley 
has phrased it, "Nothing endures save the flow of 
energy and the rational order which pervades it." 

That a rational basis of order exists, few men have 
ever questioned. That this is a beneficent personal 
intelligence is widely, even generally accepted, even 
by those who regard it as unknowable as well as infi- 
nite. For with our limitations we are obliged to use 
human phraseology, even when we realize that it must 
diverge infinitely from the infinite truth itself. Per- 
haps no man can wholly escape from some phase of 
anthropomorphism. For to the measure of a man, 
all that any man can conceive must in some degree 
be brought. 

The present volume has been prepared as a sum- 
mary of Luther Burbank's experiences and beliefs. 
His interpreter here is Dr. Frederick W. Clampett, a 
friend at once broad-minded and sympathetic. Dr. 
Clampett has been for over forty years a clergyman 
in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and has been long 
honored as one of its wise and liberal representatives. 

During the World War he served as Chaplain- of 
the 144th Field Artillery (the "Grizzlies") in France, 
having received his commission direct from the hands 
of the late President Wilson. 

He has been a writer on world topics for the past 
five years, three of which have been spent in Europe. 

Chancellor, Stanford University 

















Luther Burbank is perhaps the most widely known 
and least understood of modern scientists. This fail- 
ure to understand him aright is due to the publication 
of many detached fragments of his life which have 
been lacking in logical sequence and true proportion. 
And those detached fragments confine themselves 
almost exclusively to the scientific aspects of his long 
and remarkable career. 

To know Luther Burbank as he was, from the 
human, the scientific and the spiritual sides of his 
nature is to become acquainted with one of the most 
fascinating personalities of our tunes. It is to re- 
ceive a demonstration that his triumph in the realm of 
science is more than equaled by his triumph in the 
realm of spirit. 

His religious experiences and beliefs, as told in these 
subsequent pages, will be more clearly understood in 
the setting provided by the events that helped to 
shape his career, and in the light cast by the slow, 
patient methods that marked his pursuit of clues in 

My purpose in this preface will be to present in 
brief form those hitherto obscured aspects of his char- 
acter and in that way strive to depict certain features 
of his life unknown to the public that give it sym- 



metry. The best means to use in doing this is to 
make a composite study of the man, which shall be 
the outcome of twenty years of close personal friend- 
ship. It is a story, the world will say, of intense human 
interest; and one of the highest inspiration, will be 
the verdict of the seeker after truth. 

His onward march along the tedious, oftentimes 
painful, treks of the scientist blazed many a fresh 
trail into "the infinite variety and unity of Nature." 

Underneath it all, as a foundation that "standeth 
sure," is the spiritual man, his "Kingdom within" in 
tune with the Infinite. 

These two aspects of his character help to explain 
his feeling that the creeds enmeshed in superstition 
and bigotry occupy the antipodes of the world in 
which he dwelt himself, and that the silent growth of 
his quite different beliefs was the product of his own 
judgment and reason, based on the primal responses 
of his being "to the voice within." 

On its human side Luther Burbank's life, in its 
play with science, presents a study bristling with 
romance. Measured by the intenseness of the strain 
and the ups and downs fortune played him in his 
long-drawn-out struggle against heavy odds, no other 
life in the realm of science contains more startling 

This thought moved and mastered me as I stood 
beside him on the lawn of his Santa Rosa home the 
day of the fiftieth anniversary of his life-work in Cali- 

Who could have believed, that radiant morning, 
that this man frolicking on the grass with the light- 


heartedness of a child was within close sight of his 
seventy-seventh milestone! 

Of lithe, spare figure, below the average height, with 
mind and muscle striving for added proficiency, the 
spirit of youth kindling his eye, pure kindness reflected 
in his gentle, genial face, he looked as able as one 
of his favorite plants to serve as a living incarna- 
tion expressing the truth of selection, heredity and 

Luther Burbank in his "seventies" was psychologi- 
cally the matured edition that might have been pre- 
dicted of young Luther Burbank in his "teens." 

The true chronicle of his early life will be of inval- 
uable service to the cause of truth both in religion and 
science. It will demonstrate that "like produces like" 
or near alike. How it will rouse and feed the ambi- 
tion of the vast army of our young men and women to 
whom the doors of our universities are locked by the 
freaks of fortune! 

Luther Burbank took greater pride in the days of 
his youth than in the days of his greatness. His face 
would light up with pleasure as he related how much 
March 7, 1849, as the date of his birth, and Lancaster, 
Massachusetts, as the place, meant to him that he 
happened to be the thirteenth of fifteen children and 
didn't care that his mother of ninety-seven years 
seems good evidence that maternity must be a friend 
of longevity that a blend of English and Scotch in 
one's ancestry is worth while that the "human plant 
in the cradle" in that Lancaster home was like all other 
feeders from the bottle and that it was puritanism in 


As he sprouted into boyhood, his young mind 
received and retained varied impressions from his 
environment with almost faultless powers of registra- 
tion. Nothing seems to have escaped him; at least, 
after sixty years of incredible toil, he could analyze 
them one after another with scientific minuteness, as 
if they had happened yesterday. 

He often spoke of a double inheritance handed down 
to him from his father. Thus he explains it: "There 
was a certain definiteness about all he did. I learned 
that this quality was based on absolute honesty toward 
everything met in life." That will explain his atti- 
tude toward religion. Not less important was the 
second half of this inheritance: "His firm belief in 
the power and value of method which exercised no 
mean influence upon my life from the start." 

To the common schools of Lancaster, Massachu- 
setts, and to a local academy, he was sent for the only 
classroom education that came into his boyhood life. 
Later he was privileged to take a course in medicine. 
He was profoundly influenced, in the formative 
years of his life, by three men and three books. After 
a most careful analysis of the incidents of his boyhood 
days, it is my conviction that the secret of his success 
can be traced to those influences in combination. 

Luther Burbank did not hesitate to attribute the 
most powerful of the early formative influences of his 
life to his association with an older cousin of his 
Professor Levi Burbank, How his views of life were 
broadened and his methods of investigation reduced 
to a basis of scientific precision will be understood 
from his brief summary of the man: "My cousin was 


a man of parts. He had a strong bent toward biology, 
and he specialized in geology. His knowledge of plant 
life was profound. He had a true scientist's mind. 
His was strictly the scientific point of view. He 
avoided the technicalities of science, preferring to talk 
interestingly and simply of the world of Nature all 
about us." 

For a time his cousin and he lived under the same 
roof and a strong and growing bond united them. 
Of their daily habits he thus speaks: "He took me 
out in the woods and fields and gave me a clear insight 
into the life going on in them that is so closely asso- 
ciated with ours. It was not alone the actual informa- 
tion I thus gamed though this was of the greatest 
value but the point of view, the broad grasp of basic 
principles which were to him an open book, that hold 
their influence over me to this day." 

Louis Agassiz (1807-73), professor of natural history 
at Harvard, was a close personal friend of Luther's 
father. In 1863, when Luther had attained his four- 
teenth year and Agassiz was just fifty-six years old, 
he formed his acquaintance, so that for ten precious 
years he sat at the feet of that great master. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) was the third of 
the group that exercised a powerful influence over his 
young life. He recalled with remarkable distinctness, 
after the long interval of fifty-five years, many of his 
personal conversations with him. 

"Three book influences," said Luther Burbank, 
"stand out in my life as having influenced greatly my 

He was a close reader of the works of Henry David 


Thoreau (1817-62), because he appealed to him as 
the "naturalist who saw." In the writings of Friedrich 
Alexander Humboldt (1769-1859) he discovered a 
world of interest "A wealth of fact, observation, 
deduction and comment." Thus he expressed the 
nature of his influence over him: "Perhaps the basic 
thought I absorbed was the idealistic and intrinsic 
worth of the work in which I was later to embark." 

It was Charles Darwin (1809-82), however, "the 
daring discoverer," who both by his brilliant career 
and his published works exerted the most powerful 
influence. Burbank found in him his master. Darwin 
laid out the way that Burbank trod. 

His Animals and Plants under Domestication threw 
out a challenge that Burbank heard and accepted. 
These are his words: "When, inspired by Darwin, I 
began to grasp roughly the principles of variation 
that it is possible for man to train and change his 
plants so as to meet his needs and desires my career 
was fixed my path in life clearly indicated." 

As he began to sense the message of that book, a 
new light entered his soul which fired his ambition 
by imaging before his mind the unborn possibilities 
of the laws of variation, hastening the day when he 
should experiment with those principles in far-off 

Up to this experience, Burbank's life had been 
passed in much the same dull monotony as countless 
other lives. He had worked in the Ames Plow Factory 
at fifty cents a day. Market-gardening and seed rais- 
ing in a small way kept him busy and led in 1873 to 
the "Burbank potato" as the outcome of planting a 


few promising seeds found in a seed boll of the Early 

Yet there is a vital sense in which those days were 
the most important in his entire career. Again and 
again did he put the emphasis on this fact with all 
the intenseness of his nature. And had he not just 

In those days of priceless value he laid a foundation 
of good health, stored his mind with the facts dis- 
covered by the world's great naturalists, saw visions 
that fired his soul, dreamed of future conquests and 
panted for his opportunity. And it came. 

The story of Luther Burbank's life as the man of 
science is unique in the formidable assembly of 
America's self-made great men. Once he trod the soil 
of California, the opportunities for plant breeding for 
which he had yearned unfolded to his uses with all 
the naturalness of one of his own most beautiful roses. 
In the course of fifty years, millions on millions of 
plants were grown by the deft hands of Luther Bur- 
bank. Of these millions, one plant is easily finer than 
all the others combined. It is the choicest, the most 
prolific, the most admired. It is Luther Burbank him- 
self, who, duly transplanted from his native soil of 
New England, took deep root in the soil of California 
and produced a new and original variety of human 

In those fifty years he made history, personal and 
scientific, that is only possible in our America. It is 
the essence of romance. 

In 1875 Luther Burbank entered Santa Rosa, alone 
and unknown, with ten dollars, ten potatoes, a few 


choice books, one suit of clothes and a clean bill of 
health. In 1926 Luther Burbank owned several experi- 
mental tracts, among them one of thirteen acres of 
soil, known as the "Sebastopol Farm." In a country 
of boundless range like the Golden State, these hold- 
ings were, to be sure, mere specks of earth. Yet within 
that tiny acreage he so applied to quote the words of 
Dr. David Starr Jordan "our knowledge of heredity, 
selection and crossing to the development of plants 
that he stands unique in the world." 

Of no other plot on God's green earth, of no other 
man in recorded history can these strong words of 
that highly qualified scientist be written. It took a 
long time, of course, for him to make this mark upon 
the world, so painfully slow to sense genius and so 
ungenerously slow to reward it. Not that Burbank 
cared. He at last became well known to the world 
as well as to men of science as a man "always 
interested in the phenomena of Nature and never 
seeking fame nor money nor anything else for him- 

Through fifty years of slow, tedious, painful climb- 
ing his love of science urged him on to the exercise 
of infinite patience, until his feet rested on a summit 
high above his fondest early hopes. 

None will ever know how much Luther Burbank 
endured in those early years of California life. Alone 
and unaided, he started out in 1875, nursing his dream 
children. Penniless, he took the first job that offered 
itself, that of cleaning chicken coops. He slept inside 
one of them for a time, and was grateful, too, for its 


shelter. He knew the pangs of unsatisfied hunger. 
When serious sickness came, an old woman tended 
him, fed him on milk and saved his life. 

There were still long years ahead of waiting, wait- 
ing, waiting. Oh, to possess just a few acres in which 
he might walk in spirit with Darwin amongst his 
plants, selecting, crossing, training! That was the 
essence of his dreams; and when that day came and 
he began to apply the great lessons of his masters, 
by slow degrees there came to fruition in his life the 
promise of his early teacher who bade him, "Learn 
to labor and to wait." 

It takes no less than eight volumes of printed matter 
to contain even a summary of the work which he 
accomplished. Of the quality of that work, thus speaks 
Dr. Hugo De Vries of Amsterdam, Holland, one of 
the world's great naturalists: "Luther Burbank was 
the greatest breeder of plants the world has ever 
known. The magnitude of his work exceeds anything 
that was ever done before." At the hour of writing, 
there are over six thousand extensive experiments 
under way; there are now growing over five thousand 
distinct botanical specimens from all parts of the 
world; more than a million plants are raised every 
year for testing. 

No man is more qualified to pass upon the life-work 
of Luther Burbank than David Starr Jordan. His 
standing in the scientific world, combined with his life- 
long intimacy with both Luther Burbank and his 
work, renders his criticism of unusual value. 

Thus Jordan speaks: 


Burbank's ways are Nature's ways, for Bur- 
bank' differs from other men in this, that his whole 
life is given to the study of how Nature does 
things. His greatest service to science is to show 
what can be achieved through deeper knowledge 
of things as they are. He has shown the infinite 
variety of Nature as exhibited in the varying 
life and ways of the millions of kinds of living 
things. He has shown the unity of Nature in 
again demonstrating the final essential simplicity 
of creative processes. He has put into practical 
utility the teachings of his great master, Darwin, 
and he has enriched the world with thousands of 
fruits and flowers, useful and delightful, which but 
for him would have existed only among the con- 
ceivable possibilities of creation. He has helped 
mankind by increasing enormously the economic 
values of plant life. He has helped even more 
our science and our philosophy by his practical 
and successful tests of biologic theories. 

Few tributes, as between one scientist and another, 
are more accurate in fact and generous in spirit. 

When we pass from the things of Nature to the 
things of spirit, Luther Burbank admits us, as it were, 
into the sanctuary of his being. We become more and 
more conscious, as we take up our abode with him, 
of his deeply spiritual nature and the supersensitive- 
ness of his soul. They form a mirror in which that 
popular error assiduously cultivated and circulated 
by anti-evolutionists that science is opposed to 
religion, suffers complete exposure. 


Luther Burbank was equally at home in the king- 
dom of Nature and the kingdom of spirit. In a peculiar 
degree, he suggested the most perfect balance in his 
relation to both. It would be quite as absurd to call 
him a "mystic" in respect to his spiritual experiences 
as it is to call him a "wizard" in respect to his plant 
creations. But I have never known a man who was 
so free from rules, traditions and conventional beliefs 
and prejudices. 

Things that would stagger the average man he took 
as a matter of course. Fearlessly he marched forward 
in his quest for truth, as if the supreme demand of 
things spiritual was whole-hearted response to the pre- 
cept: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." 

A careful study of the following features of his life- 
work and character will prepare the way for becoming 
rightly acquainted with the strong convictions that 
will be found expressed in succeeding pages. 

Luther Burbank behaved just as naturally in deal- 
ing with the things of spirit as if he were studying 
his favorite plants. The impression invariably left 
upon my mind, at the end of a religious discussion 
with him, was that he looked upon things tangible as 
the shadows, and the things unseen as the eternal sub- 
stance. Like the child of Nature in the midst of his 
plants and flowers, he "lived and moved and had his 
being" unafraid in the precincts of the invisible. One 
day he said to me with a smile: " 'Tis all so simple." 
He made his way about with the same sweetly trustful 
spirit in both kingdoms. 

His motto was: Omne vivum ex vivo. When I put 
the question to him one day: "Can you possibly con- 


ceive of science as the breeder of agnosticism?" his 
answer was instant and direct: "No! No! Science is 
knowledge arranged and classified according to truth, 
facts and the general laws of Nature. Except through 
science there is no personal salvation, there is no 
national salvation. It is simply a crossing from things 
to the essence of things." What could more clearly 
demonstrate the simplicity with which the mind of 
the great scientist sensed the harmony existing in the 
relations between natural law and the spiritual world ! 

No man in history lived so long with Nature or 
gave to the world, as a result of such close companion- 
ship, so many rich and varied blessings. For more 
than sixty years his mind was concentrated on Nature's 
possibilities, intent on learning her secrets. To this 
study he brought naturally acute powers of observa- 
tion, infinite patience and the most delicate discrimi- 
nation in analysis. It can readily be seen how those 
qualities would develop and become perfected through 
the years. Alone amid the silences of Nature, he 
worked over the millions on millions of plants that 
passed through his hands. Profitable results of any 
kind depended upon an ability to detect in a flash 
variations that would pass most observers unnoticed. 

Once, in speaking of the effect on things spiritual of 
this life-long detective work with plants, he said to me: 

My theory of the laws and underlying principles 
of plant-creation is in many respects opposed to 
the theories of the materialists. I am a sincere 
believer in a higher power than man's. Every 
atom, every molecule, plant, animal or planet, is 


only an aggregation of organized unit forces, 
which, though teeming with inconceivable power, 
are held in equilibrium by stronger forces for a 
time. All life on our planet is, so to speak, just 
on the outer fringe of this infinite ocean of force. 
The universe is not half dead, but all alive. 

It is not hard to reason that, when a man of native 
spiritual power spends a lifetime in such living rela- 
tionship with Nature, his insight into the ways of the 
Infinite become penetrating and real. 

Has he not earned a right to a respectful hearing 
when he says: "I prefer and claim the right to worship 
the infinite, everlasting, almighty God of this vast 
universe as revealed to us gradually, step by step, by 
the demonstrable truths of our savior, science." 

In his attitude toward things spiritual I have never 
been in contact with a man so free from the bondage 
of tradition and the blinders of prejudice. He cham- 
pioned no system, held himself aloof so as to be free 
to pass by all structural theology on the other side and 
seek the truth, for truth's sake alone, with all the 
single-minded intenseness of his nature. 

As delicate in physical build as an orchid, with a 
nature ever as sensitive as his plants to light and 
warmth, and a face reflecting serenity of mind, he 
lived at peace with himself and all the world. 

"In how far did his belief express itself and bear 
fruit?" is a question often asked of me, and my reply 
is definite. For love, for unselfishness, for great serv- 
ices to humanity, for kindness, for sweet reasonable- 
ness and tolerance, for joyousness of living, for sim- 


plicity, for the splendor of his brilliant physical, 
mental and spiritual powers, pureness of life and char- 
acter, he stands alone among the many thousands of 
other men I have met in a public life of over forty 

Luther Burbank's is the one life known to me that 
was incomparably in tune with the Infinite. 

It was the most natural thing in the world for him 
to exclaim: "I love sunshine, the blue sky, trees, 
flowers, mountains, green meadows, running brooks, 
the ocean waves softly rippling along the sandy beach 
or pounding the rocky cliffs with their thunder and 
roar, the birds of the field, waterfalls, the rainbow, the 
dawn, the noonday and the evening sunset but chil- 
dren above them all." 

Perhaps no man in our United States of America 
received more letters from little children than Luther 
Burbank. With the remarkable instinct of divination 
given to the child, they sensed and enjoyed his great 
love for them. Speaking of the young of the human 
species he once said: "The child is the most sensitive 
plant on earth; it will respond (by structural changes) 
to repetition just as a plant will; once fixed, a quality 
of spiritual power and a trait (of character) will stay 
with a child for ever." 

Hundreds of schools throughout California com- 
bined in celebrating Luther Burbank's birthday. And 
the children on these occasions repeated the following 
standard of their young lives, as prepared by him: 

Whom do you love among your schoolmates? 
Not those who throw stones at innocent animals; 


not those who break and destroy fences, trees and 
windows; not those who wish to quarrel and fight; 
but you do love and respect those who are kind, 
gentle and unselfish the peacemakers. 

Weakling cowards boast, swagger and brag; the 
brave ones, the good ones are gentle and kind. 

Cultivate kind, gentle, loving thoughts toward 
every person and animal, and even plants, stars, 
oceans, rivers and hills. You will find yourself 
growing more happy each day, and with happi- 
ness comes health and everything you want. 

One is reminded of the language of the apostle: 
"Little children, love one another." 

Thus greatness and loving gentleness of soul blended 
in his capacious nature like the meeting of two oceans. 

David Starr Jordan, in his summary of Burbank's 
rank in the realm of science, wrote thus of him: "If 
his place is outside the temple of science, there are not 
many of the rest of us who will be found fit to enter. 
... In his own way, Burbank belongs in the class 
of Faraday and the long array of self-taught great men 
who lived while the universities were spending their 
strength on fine points of grammar and hazy concep- 
tions of philosophy." 

After twenty years of close friendship with Burbank, 
during which I was honored with his closest confi- 
dence and the open confession of his religious opinions 
and beliefs, I can declare with equal confidence: "If 
his place is outside the temple of religion there are 
not many of the rest of us who will be found fit to 
enter. In his own way, Burbank belongs in the long 


array of self-taught great men, who lived while 
religious organizations were spending their strength 
on fine points of theology and hazy conceptions of 



WORCESTER, April 25, 1869. 

I have been to meeting to-day and now have some 
spare time to write home. Have we not had two fine 
days to-day and yesterday? I have just been out pick- 
ing a few flowers, but do not find the familiar may- 

Went to the drawing school yesterday afternoon and 
after supper went through the woods to a hill where 
all was quiet save the frogs in a distant pond and the 
joyous birds. I could see a great distance in every 
direction. The sun had just hidden his face beyond 
the far-off western horizon whose edges were tinged 
with silver and gold. I sat down upon a stump where 
the grass was green and enjoyed the pure air and the 
beautiful scene around me. Looking toward the south 
I could see the city spread before me; in the opposite 
direction was grand Wachusett which has about the 
same profile as when seen from Lancaster and nearer 
by were smaller hills, their sides just beginning to be 
clothed in the robe of summer and, between them, 
ponds as quiet and smooth as if frozen. It was a beau- 
tiful sight I cannot describe it. My thoughts wan- 
dered over the past and future of this life which a 
bountiful God has given me to enjoy, and I thought: 
"Am I growing in anything which is noble, manly, 



good or pure, or am I growing more beastly. Oh, is 
not life itself a great blessing; each of us poor sinful 
human beings have the privilege of elevating, improv- 
ing, purifying and fitting for heaven these immortal 
minds of ours, or we may make them a thousand times 
worse than that of the groveling swine." 

I take great pleasure in studying the hundreds of 
faces which I meet every day, no two of them look 
alike. It is easy to tell the high and the low, the good 
and the bad, and generally the rich and the poor; some 
of them always look pleasant, pure and happy; others 
dirty, mean and miserable. 

Monday morning. My string was cut short last 
night by seeing that it was time to go to meeting. 
Uncle Nelson has been heard from direct in two ways, 
he is in Belfast, Maine, with his steamer, the "White 
Fawn." Aunt Jane has been up here two or three 
times lately. I think she is very well for her. I want 
very much to hear from you and Emma this week. 
Emma must not wait for Monday to write, but send 
me one Wed. too if she can afford it. When I was 
sitting on the hill Sat. night I might have said that I 
thought of a large brick house with a white Ell, and 
the friends thereabout twenty miles away. Hope you 
are all well and enjoying yourselves. We have not 
been paid off yet. The Co. owe me about $120. Let 
Emma write how she likes this mess of mental fodder 
and if the rhubarb is up, and if Trip [the dog] is 
well, etc. 

I hope to hear from you soon. I enjoy reading let- 
ters from home pretty well. Yours with love 



Monday noon. Joe Stone (the Groton Mill River 
Stone) has been in here several days lately at court 
he came in to see me last week. Uncle Hiram is in 
Maine. Have not heard from Dr. Willis yet. I have 
a tooth which ought to be attended to and have half 
a mind to come home Saturday night and come in with 
you Tuesday, Probate day. Hope to hear from you 
this week. With love 



In one of his busiest mornings late in the month of 
January, 1926, Luther Burbank graciously granted an 
interview to a young reporter of a local paper. Out 
of the goodness of his heart he dropped his work 
amongst his bulbs to do the young man a favor. In 
the few minutes available, he was asked for a definite 
answer to a question dealing with the subject of 
immortality. Burbank, in the course of his reply, 
called himself an "infidel." The quick, enterprising 
mind of the youth pictured the splendid front-page 
headline which that word would make. His vision was 
unerring. That ugly word, so suggestive of the lack 
of religion, or worse, was tagged to the religious life 
of Luther Burbank and flashed across both continent 
and ocean. Once in motion it got beyond control, and 
in a short time some eight thousand American and 
foreign newspapers and magazines strengthened an 
alliance between them at once odious and untrue. 

It is not difficult to anticipate the inevitable result. 
At a season of the year when his work as a naturalist 
demanded every moment of his time, he was forced to 
undergo the most exciting and harassing experiences 
of his entire career. Poor Luther Burbank, who never 
injured a fellow mortal in his more than seventy years, 
the gentlest, purest, kindliest of men, was made the 
object of a narrow, bitter religious war of words. He 



who delighted to live a life of ascetic solitude amongst 
his plants and flowers was made a public spectacle. 
His name was linked with the aggressive unbelief of 
Ingersoll, and men and women whispered it in the 
same breath with those of Tom Paine and Charles 
Bradlaugh. His neat study was turned into a litter 
of letters. In his home town of Santa Rosa, this 
friend of little children, this champion of the poor and 
the afflicted, was pestered by women of the several 
evangelical churches, who had formed groups of pray- 
ing circles to supplicate their God that He might 
grant the deluded and benighted Burbank light, 
repentance and forgiveness. His home was besieged 
by self-appointed representatives of the "faithful," 
who implored him to recant. The tragedy of Dayton, 
Tennessee, was reenacted in Santa Rosa, California. 
He who had reveled for sixty years in the silences of 
Nature was now compelled to spend his days amid the 
angry tumult of incarnated fanaticism. Like Paul of 
old, he was to learn what men who "fought with beasts 
at Ephesus" felt while the fight was going on. When 
we met at that time, the expression which he wore 
was that of a man who had been buffeted by "the 
petrified hypocrisy" of men and women whose ideas 
of religion made it possible for them to bless and curse 
in the same breath. 

In the midst of that awful experience, many invita- 
tions came to him to occupy church pulpits to help 
allay the seething feelings of narrow bigots. Finally 
he was persuaded to accept one of them from the great- 
est Sunday audience that assembles in the city of San 
Francisco, and on the last Sunday in January he deliv- 


ered in the First Congregational Church an address 
that has since become historic. The seating capacity 
of the church is two thousand people, but on that 
morning more than twenty-five hundred people lis- 
tened to him with breathless attention. In the congre- 
gation were bankers, lawyers, merchants, teachers and 
representatives of almost every shade of religious 
belief known in the cosmopolitan city of San Fran- 
cisco, among them hundreds who had perhaps not 
attended church service for many years. 

We chatted together before the hour of service and 
I was conscious of what a nervous strain he was under. 
Dr. James L. Gordon, the broad-minded pastor, wel- 
comed him in a true, loving spirit, and with spoken 
words of strength and tolerance. Just before he rose 
I whispered friendly wishes, and he smiled as he turned 
to face that vast concourse. 

There was something strangely fascinating about 
the man as he stood there. His clear, thin voice filled 
that vast auditorium. Frail in form, with pale face 
and classic head, no man, I will venture to say, ever 
stood on that spot whose personality suggested such 
startling contrasts. It seemed to me as if a prophet 
had sprung to life out of the ages. Knowing his dread 
of public functions, his shyness and reserve, I followed 
his opening sentences, my own throat tight with mis- 
giving. But I was soon made to realize that he more 
than measured up to the requirements of the occasion. 
As he went on with slow, almost hesitating speech, a 
stillness like unto death came over the great audience, 
and men and women hung upon every word he uttered 
a kind of spell. 


His opening sentence launched out into the deep. 
"I love everybody. I love everything. I love espe- 
cially to look into the deep, worshipful, liquid eyes of 
Bonita, my dog, whose devotion is as profound as life 
itself. But better yet, I love to look into the fearless, 
honest, trusting eyes of a child who so long has been 
said by theologians to be conceived and bom in sin 
and pre-damned at birth." 

His entire message was pitched in the same keys of 
love and joy. 

Not in the history of churches in any city of the 
Golden State has the scene that followed ever been 
paralleled. Hundreds pressed in upon him at the close 
of the service and waited patiently for the chance of 
grasping his hand and blessing him for his words. 
They had proved, indeed, "a challenge to thought for 
those who were asleep," and struck some of the divin- 
est chords in the strange symphony of life. 


Delivered in the First Congregational Church, 
San Francisco 

"I love everybody! I love everything! Some 
people seem, to make mistakes, but everything and 
everybody has something of value to contribute or 
they would not be here. 

"I love humanity, which has been a constant delight 
to me during all my seventy-seven years of life; and 
I love flowers, trees, animals and all the works of 
Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What 
a joy life is when you have made a close working 
partnership with Nature, helping her to produce 
for the benefit of mankind new forms, colors and 
perfumes in flowers which were never known before; 
fruits in form, size, color and flavor never before seen 
on this globe; and grains of enormously increased pro- 
ductiveness, whose fat kernels are filled with more and 
better nourishment, a veritable storehouse of perfect 
food new food for all the world's untold millions 
for all tune to come. 

"All things plants, animals and men are already 
in eternity traveling across the face of time, whence 
we know not, whither who is able to say. Let us have 
one world at a time and let us make the journey one 



of joy to our fellow passengers and just as convenient 
and happy for them as we can, and trust the rest as we 
trust life. 

"Let us read the Bible without the ill-fitting colored 
spectacles of theology, just as we read other books, 
using our own judgment and reason, listening to the 
voice, not to the noisy babble without. Most of us 
possess discriminating reasoning powers. Can we use 
them or must we be fed by others like babes? 

"I love especially to look into the deep, worshipful, 
liquid eyes of Bonita, my dog, whose devotion is as 
profound and lasting as life itself. But better yet, 
I love to look into the fearless, honest, trusting eyes 
of a child who so long has been said by theologians 
to be conceived and born in sin and pre-damned at 
birth. Do you believe all our teachers without ques- 
tion? I cannot. We must 'prove all things' and 'hold 
fast that which is good.' 

"What does the Bible mean when it distinctly says, 
'By their fruits ye shall know them'? Works count 
far more than words with those who think clearly. 

"Euripides long ago said, 'Who dares not speak his 
free thought is a slave.' I nominated myself as an 
'infidel' as a challenge to thought for those who are 
asleep. The word is harmless if properly used. Its 
stigma has been heaped upon it by unthinking people 
who associate it with the- bogie devil and his malicious 
works. The devil has never concerned me, as I have 
always used my own conscience, not the dictum of any 

"If my words have awakened thought in narrow 
bigots and petrified hypocrites, they will have done 


their appointed work. The universal voice of science 
tells us that the consequences fall upon ourselves here 
and now, if we misuse this wonderful body, or mind, 
or the all-pervading spirit of good. Why not accept 
these plain facts and guide our lives accordingly? We 
must not be deceived by blind leaders of the blind, 
calmly expecting to be 'saved' by anyone except by 
the Kingdom within ourselves. The truly honest and 
brave ones know that if they are to be saved it must 
be by their own efforts. The truth hurts for a while 
as do the forceps that remove an old, useless tooth, 
but health and happiness may be restored by the pain- 
ful removal of the disturbing member. 

"My mother, who lived to the ripe old age of ninety- 
seven years, used very often in my boyhood and youth- 
ful, days to say, 'Luther, I wish you to make this world 
a better place to live in than it was before you lived.' 
I have unfailingly tried all of my own long life to 
live up to this standard. I was not told to believe 
this or that or be damned. 

"I reiterate: The religion of most people is what 
they would like to believe, not what they do believe, 
and very few stop to examine its foundation under- 
neath. The idea that a good God would send people 
to a burning hell is utterly damnable to me the rav- 
ings of insanity, superstition gone to seed! I don't 
want to have anything to do with such a God. I am 
a lover of man and of Christ as a man and his work, 
and all things that help humanity; but nevertheless, 
just as he was an infidel then, I am an infidel to-day. 
I prefer and claim the right to worship the infinite, 
everlasting, almighty God of this vast universe as 


revealed to us gradually, step by step, by the demon- 
strable truths of our savior, science. 

"Do you think Christ or Mohammed, Confucius, 
Baal or even the gods of ancient mythology are dead? 
Not so. Do you think Pericles, Marcus Aurelius, 
Moses, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Aristotle, Tolstoi, 
Franklin, Emerson are dead? No. Their very per- 
sonality lives and will live forever in our lives and 
in the lives of all those who will follow us. All of 
them are with us to-day. No one lives who is not 
influenced, more or less, by these great ones according 
to the capacity of the cup of knowledge which they 
bring to these ever-flowing fountains to be filled. 

"Olive Schreiner says: 'Holiness is an infinite com- 
passion for others; greatness is to take the common 
things of life, and walk truly among them. 

" 'All things on earth have their price; and for truth 
we pay the dearest. We barter it for love and sym- 
pathy. The road to honor is paved with thorns; but 
on the path to truth at every step you set your foot 
down on your own heart. 

" 'For the little soul that cries aloud for continued 
personal existence for itself and its beloved, there is 
no help. For the soul which knows itself no more as 
a unit, but as a part of the Universal Unity of which 
the beloved also is a part, which feels within itself 
the throb of the Universal Lifefor that soul there 
is no death.' " 


Both new and startling were the experiences that 
happened to Luther Burbank as the direct result of 
his "Challenge to Thought." For the first time in 
his long career of fifty years he had entered the realm 
of religious discussion, with a statement of his beliefs 
delivered with a frankness and precision of thought 
characteristic of the man. Viewing the aftermath of 
his utterance from the human standpoint alone, it 
had all the elements of tragedy. The center of gravity 
of his personality was suddenly transferred from the 
peace and quietness of his horticultural labors into the 
vortex of a religious controversy. No man, in my 
experience of forty years of public life, was less fitted 
to grapple with such an acute and unforeseen situa- 
tion. Gentle, loving, of retiring habits, he had lived 
for fifty years in his California home amongst his 
plants and flowers, at peace with his God, with him- 
self, with all the world. While I was preparing a sketch 
of his scientific career during the month of October, 
1925, we were brought into close companionship. His 
charm as a man of settled calm, of peaceful serenity 
of spirit and of joyousness of being was the chief 
impression he made upon me. Then at the summit of 
his success in the world of science, he bore his honors 
with a rare modesty. It is easy of belief that such a 
spirit would shrink with horror from the publicity and 



strife of a religious controversy. Nothing could have 
been more abhorrent to his kindliness of nature. 

His public statement was exploited by the press, 
broadcasted by radio, and made the topic of innumer- 
able religious discourses throughout the country. The 
consequence was a flood of letters and telegrams from 
all parts of the world. For many weeks I assisted him 
in reading and assorting these thousands of letters. 
Science has turned our world into a small family 
dwelling place. From Australia and New Zealand 
cables were received, requesting permission to pub- 
lish his "message." 

They were all brought to his study, which was 
small and compact, and filled with literature on every 
possible subject. On the wall over the bookcase in a 
frame hung a poem, in clear, strong print, as follows: 

Oft as in solitude and shade I wander, 
Through the green aisles, or stretched upon the sod; 

Awed by the silence, reverently I ponder 
The ways of God. 

Your voiceless lips of flowers are preachers, 
Each cup a pulpit each leaf a book 

Supplying to my fancy numerous teachers, 
From lowliest nook. 

Floral apostles, that in dewdrop splendor 
Weep without woe, and blush without a crime, 

may I learn, and ne'er surrender 
Your love sublime. 

Over Luther Burbank's desk a face looked down 
with a massive head and the strong eye of the true 
scholarthat of Dr. David Starr Jordan. Once 


BurbanK remarked, as we gazed upon it: "One of 
the strongest minds of our nation." 

In the days that followed, the floor was piled up 
each morning with the incoming mail, like a huge 
catch of fish out of the net. Burbank sat in the center 
of his study, paper-knife in hand. Each letter was 
opened with neatness and minimum effort, glanced 
through or read even more carefully, decided upon, 
and then returned to its envelope. His face through- 
out was a study, and he would often whisper a word 
of criticism to me. In the weeks we thus spent to- 
gether some nine thousand letters passed through his 
hands, letters from every state in the Union, from 
Canada, and from greater distances. 

It may safely be asserted that their contents struck 
every string in the gamut of human nature. It was 
hard to conceive that Nature could be so diverse or 
religion become so distorted. 

Throughout it all the self-control of Luther Bur- 
bank was remarkable. There were tunes when I 
sensed a disturbed look the expression of a man who 
fought hard to master his emotions. He was com- 
mended, rebuked, scolded, assailed, chided, praised, 
cursed and blessed. And those letters came from every 
type of citizen. They were written by presidents of 
universities, scientists, clergymen, physicians, lec- 
turers, laborers, journalists, cranks, business men, 
lawyers, judges, inmates of asylums and young men 
and young women, all pouring out their sentiments, 
opinions and beliefs with frankness and spontaneity, 
moved to do so, some of them, by the spirit of kind- 
ness, and others, by a very passion of brutality. 


Burbank's attitude toward the entire correspond- 
ence was marked by the qualities of thoroughness 
and patience responsible for his success in the sci- 
entific world. There were days when I could have 
burnt all the piles of letters in one bonfire, out of a 
realization that the strain upon his strength was be- 
coming abnormal and that the logical end would be a 
disordered nervous condition. No tangible result of 
a constructive character could possibly be disen- 
tangled from, such a mass of discordant-- elements. 
But it was Burbank's firm determination to "see it 
through," and he struggled on with a manly fortitude. 

Modernists, fundamentalists, agnostics, atheists, 
Ethical Culturists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, 
Spiritualists, heretics, Mormons and a score of other 
partisans poured out upon his head the convictions 
and conclusions of their minds without restraint. 

Hundreds of letters from young men and women, 
describing their doubts and spiritual struggles and 
pleading for light, were read with the utmost care and 
laid aside for a personal response. "This is heartbreak- 
ing," he would often whisper as he lingered over a 
letter, underlining certain passages in it. Many an 
appeal brought tears to his eyes, as he confessed his 
helplessness. "I'm a member of a club in which every 
one of us is a practical unbeliever," wrote a student 
of an Eastern college. "Why try to pray when we 
don't know whether God is, in this jumble of mis- 
beliefs?" was the final sentence of a letter in which a 
young man bared the doubts of his soul. A Baptist 
minister of Kansas City, who was cast out of his 
church for publicly endorsing Burbank's statement of 


belief, wrote to say how he rejoiced at his new freedom 
from dogmatic domination and the right he had 
asserted to think as his mind and conscience demanded. 
From a young man in Virginia, engaged in horticul- 
ture, came an appeal that affected Burbank visibly. 
In the heart of the country, with few friends, the loss 
of his mother had brought the greatest sorrow into 
his soul. He wrote: "What does religion offer me in 
these days of awful darkness is there a hope that 
may sustain me? Is God a reality? I don't know 
which way to turn." 

In the midst of letters breathing despair a letter of 
love and hope would often supply an antidote of the 
greatest possible strength and comfort. From Ina 
Coolbrith, California's poetess laureate, for example, 
came her Songs from the Golden State and the follow- 
ing inscription from her pen: "TO OUR 'BELOVED 
INFIDEL' LUTHER BURBANK, whose every act through 
life has been one Faith. With unfailing faith from 
Ina Coolbrith." Many letters came from toilers, con- 
taining blunt, frank statements that rejoiced his 
heart. "Good luck to you, dear friend Burbank," 
wrote a miner from an Eastern state; "let's have the 
truth at all costs. Self and family has quit church 
going till a man comes along who will give us a god 
of love and forget about hell fire." 

Of the hundreds of abusive letters the following two 
may be accepted as fitting examples: "Dear Sir: One 
Bryan is worth a million Burbanks to any world, and 
the Bible will be doing business when you and your 
flowers are blowing down the years. Abilene, Kansas." 
"Dear Sir : You will be held responsible for your state- 


ment. You have set aside the Bible, made the God 
of the Bible a liar, made Jesus Christ an impostor. 
Thus you declare yourself to be a heathen. It is too 
bad you have so little sense. Keokuk, Iowa." 

Many of the most sympathetic letters were received 
from the universities of the land. They were examples 
of a breadth of thought that cheered him beyond the. 
power of language to describe. His close friendship 
for Dr. W. Ray Lyman Wilbur, President of Stanford 
University, made the sentiment of the following letter 
very real to him: "Dear Mr. Burbank I hope your 
usual equanimity is not being disturbed by the 
HOWLEKS. Anyone who compels thought as you have 
is a real contribution to us all. Faithfully yours." 

In the same spirit wrote Mrs. Henrietta B. Lindsey, 
in the name of her husband : "Denver. My dear Mr. 
Burbank Judge Lindsey is just leaving on an emer- 
gency trip. Thanks for your brave attempt to make 
people think. Sincerely." 

The writer of the following is nationally well known : 
"Being an admirer of yours for years past in your 
researches and diligence with patience combined, I 
cannot help but admire your opinion on the reincarna- 
tion and super-existence of Jesus, whom all students 
realize was a Jewish student-preacher. The orthodox 
Jew does not recognize His divinity, as they have the 
history as it transpired, and I am pleased to see that 
you, in your wisdom, have the courage to come out 
against those who know not." 

With a sweet smile, Burbank handed me a letter 
from a mother of many children, in which not a word 
contained the suggestion of a religious discussion. It 


simply stated that a box, containing choice tidbits for 
his dog companion "Bonita" had been shipped, adding 
that his loving reference to his dog in his San Francisco 
address had touched her heart. 

One man, to mark his despair and in mockery of 
every semblance of hope, enclosed the following pass- 
age from the pen of Lord Balfour: "His [man's] very 
existence is an accident; his story a brief and discredit- 
able episode in the life of one of the meanest of the 
planets." As Burbank put it down, he made the 
observation that the writer must have been in very 
"poor health." 

"Isn't it just splendid to get at the exact truth?" 
writes a New Yorker. "The physical strength of a 
healthy ape is three times that of a human being, and 
the mental strength three times that of an evolu- 

The longest letters invariably were the letters of 
abuse, couched in coarse language. Without exception 
they were based on the narrowest interpretation of 
religion and filled with biblical quotations. Illiteracy 
and bigotry went hand in hand. Texts of Scripture, 
full of love, were most incongruously asked to serve 
as auxiliaries to sentences of bitter hatred. 

Only once, throughout all the weeks we were sift- 
ing, reading and arranging this correspondence, did 
he seem to be filled with righteous indignation. From 
a minister in Pasadena came the following statement, 
with its disrespectful form of salutation: "Burbank 
Lovers of Christ recently winced and staggered under 
the blasphemous attacks made by seventy-seven-year- 


old Luther Burbank, nationally famous plant wizard. 
He declared, among other things, 'Heaven and earth 
is a myth and a mockery, despite what the Bible says. 
Man needs no Salvation; he is his own Savior.' Mr. 
Burbank should stay in his own field, as a horticul- 
turist. He is thoroughly at home and probably the 
best in the nation. But when he steps into the foreign 
(to him) element of theology, he is more ignorant than 
the veriest babe in Christ among you ; his teaching on 
'Eternal Life' is not even as valuable as John D. 
Rockefeller on 'How to Play Football.' 

"We ministers do not go into his laboratories and 
inform the world that he is in error regarding many of 
his findings; and, as he admits he is not a Christian, 
he should in all courtesy realize he is out of his realm. 

"He has gathered to his banner hundreds of Christ's 
enemies, some of whom had been afraid to come out in 
the open. Unitarians, scientists, etc., who have always 
belittled Christ, are with him. But God is not mocked, 
and I tremble for them at the result, while I pity and 
pray for the man who is closing a great career as a 
poor, deluded dupe of the Devil." 

After a long silence, Luther Burbank opened his pri- 
vate drawer and, extracting a Bible, handed it to me. 
"That," said he, "with the letter that accompanied it, 
is the most treasured of anything that came to me as a 
result of this whole discussion." It was a family Bible, 
an Oxford edition, well worn and marked, with the 
clearest of type on "Ceylon paper." The letter was 
written by a woman of evident culture, who expressed 
her pride in asking his acceptance of the one thing she 


valued most in life and thanked him for his bold stand 
for a religion disentangled from the meshes of super- 

Of the communications received by Burbank from 
clergymen throughout the country one of those that 
seemed most to appeal to him was written by the 
pen of Dr. E. Morgan Isaac, a Congregational pastor. 
"Luther Burbank," said he, "has declared to the world 
that he is religious. He would not so state it, perhaps, 
but we have his own word for it. He says, 'I love 
everybody. I love everything/ That sounds like the 
Man of Galilee. It is the very essence of true religion. 
Would to goodness all professed Christians were as 
religious as this heretic! The heretic is often the man 
who sees the soul of religion and loves that inner king- 
dom of power, but cares little or nothing for the 
extremes. He has discovered that the essence of 
religion is a spiritual atmosphere. It is the attitude 
of the soul to the unseen Presence that fills the uni- 
verse and that may be seen in all expressions of life. 
He finds all theories of religion utterly inadequate to 
state the truth indeed they harass his spirit, but he 
cannot conceive of the Infinite Beauty of life and love 
and power confined to a theological mold or statement 
of creed. 

"He must have largeness, horizons that ever recede, 
life that the mind cannot measure, light that knows no 

"His love goes out to all life expression for to 
him all is beautiful with the very presence of the 


"Again he says, 'Let us have one world at a time and 
let us make the journey one of joy to our fellow passen- 
gers, and just as convenient and happy for them as we 
can, and trust the rest as we trust life.' 

"Luther Burbank has evidently caught some of this 
vision. He says: 'I prefer and claim the right to wor- 
ship the infinite, everlasting almighty God of this vast 
universe as revealed to us gradually, step by step, by 
the demonstrable truths of our savior, science.' This 
seems shocking to many good people. But why? Be- 
cause their thought has been cast in a certain kind of 
mold, the outstanding characteristic of which is limita- 
tion and fear. They are sure that all of revelation is 
in the Bible. The scientist sees an omnipresent God in 
Nature, and here the scientist has good company. 

" 'Consider the lilies of the field how they grow. 
Behold the birds of the air that they sow not, neither 
do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your Heavenly 
Father feedeth them.' 

"To Jesus all life was radiant with the presence of 
God every child, every individual, the unfortunate, 
the outcast, the despised publican all found in him a 
friend. He was a rough-weather friend as well as a 
friend of the calm day. 

"Burbank would suit Jesus. A church with a thou- 
sand Burbanks would be a great church." 

An old friend, full of culture and deep religious con- 
victions, sent the following acrostic, which Luther Bur- 
bank specially requested should be included in this 
book of reminiscences of his religious experiences and 


I mmortal words to clarion notes, 
N o minor chords of woe; 
F ull from the deep of the Great All Source, 
I n cleansing waves they flow. 
D uty dies, love takes its place; 
E ach soul is loosed from sin; 

L ife again stands clean and strong in the Temple of God 

As the days and weeks passed, it was evident that 
the prolonged strain was telling upon him. To be 
taken from the open, with its warmth and sunshine, 
and forced to live, like a transplanted flower, within 
four walls was no ordinary trial to a man of Luther 
Burbank's habits. 

Yet the physical change was nothing compared with 
the mental shock caused by the revelation of broken 
hearts, shattered beliefs and disappointed hopes. These 
were torment to his spiritual nature. Letters from 
young men in heady revolt against "the discovered 
deceptions and illusions of superstitions" pained and 
upset him greatly. Hundreds of those notes expressed 
the anxious desire to learn what the writers might 
put in the place of rejected myths which would sat- 
isfy their longing. And he felt so utterly helpless. 
Frequently he would retire to an adjoining room to 
rest upon the sofa. And during those days that the 
storm and tempest expressed in these thousands of 
communications caused him to tremble as an old oak 
of the forest, travelers from all parts of the world were 
knocking at his gate to seek an interview. 

Before I close this chapter, let me transcribe a memo 
from his pen that will be found in a nook at the side 
of his desk: 


How can you expect to have all children reared 
in love? By working to that end with vast 
patience upon the great body of the people this 
great mingling of races to teach such of them as 
do not love their children to love them, and to 
surround them with all the influence of love. This 
will not be universally accomplished to-day or 
to-morrow, and it may need centuries; but, if 
we are ever to advance in that direction and attain 
to this higher race, now is the time to begin the 
work this very day. It is the part of every 
human being who comprehends the importance of 
this attitude toward children to bend all his ener- 
gies in its promotion. 

LOVE must be the basis of all our work for the 
race. Not gush, not mere sentimentality, but 
abiding love which outlasts death. 

You can never bring up a child to its best estate 
without love. 

One day, as we rested from our discussions, I took 
from the papers on his desk the following statement 
from his friend, David Starr Jordan, and read it 
to him: 

Every robust human life is a life of faith, not 
faith in what other men have said or thought or 
dreamed of life, or death, or fate; not faith that 
some one afar off or long ago held a key to the 
riddle of existence, which is not ours to fashion or 
to hold; not faith in mystic symbolisms which 
only a priest may interpret. 

Let us say rather, faith that there is in the 


universe some force or spirit which transcends 
humanity, but of which the life of man is part, 
not the whole, something which is intensely real 
and which it is well for men to recognize, for to 
follow its ways brings effort and action, peace and 
helpfulness, the sole basis of happiness. 

At the close of the reading, he smiled and said: 
"Yes! Such a faith belongs to the Religion of Hu- 

Having shared with Burbank the reading of the 
great mass of letters that passed through our hands, 
I penned the following impressions one day, and he 
was in hearty agreement with me: 

. 1. The bitterest letters were written by men and 
women who professed to be Christians. 

2. The kindest letters were written by scientists 
and men and women of university training. 

3. The longest letters were written by the illiterate. 

4. The shortest letters were written by the cultured. 

5. The most hopeful letters were written by men 
and women in agreement with the beliefs of Burbank. 

6. The most pessimistic letters were written by 

7. The most abusive letters were written by those 
who assured Burbank they were praying for his soul's 

8. At least eighty per cent of the writers found an 
appeal to which they could respond in the spirit of 
his message. 

Glancing one day over the pages of the "Visitors' 


'Book," I copied, at haphazard, the following names of 
guests at his home. They are interesting, as indicat- 
ing the varied type of life that came in contact with 
his and broadened his horizon: William Jennings 
Bryan, who wrote after his name, "In the home of 
one to whom Nature has whispered many of her 
secrets"; Jernando Senoza Vivas, Central America; 
Arnold E. V. Richardson, Melbourne, Victoria, Aus- 
tralia; Herbert Myrick, Springfield, Mass., who wrote, 
"What an interpreter you are of Nature's creative 
power"; Dr. Victor Reyes, La Paz, Bolivia; J. F. 
Ward, President, Department of Agriculture, Tas- 
mania; George Edwin Baker, Director General of 
Posts, Peking, China; Dr. M. M. Paravians, Switzer- 
land; Ed Diaz, Guatemala, Central America; P. J. 
Cramer, Buitenzorg, Java; Q. J. Wilansky, Jaffa, Pal- 
estine; F. A. Pezet, Lima, Peru; Wadaw Sieroszewski, 
Warsaw, Poland; Lydia M. Rogers, London, England. 
R. E. Fisher (Major), Matania, Upper Egypt; 
R. D. Koch, Capetown, South Africa; A. Sodri, Rio 
de Janeiro, Brazil; Samuel Mendelssohn, Jerusalem, 
Palestine, who added "Meet me there." 

David Starr Jordan of Stanford University, who 
wrote, "A perennial joy to see Burbank"; M. Th. 
Goethe, nephew of "the Goethe," Geisenheim, Ger- 
many; President John H. Wilson of St. Andrews 
University, Scotland; Lionel Hanlon, Whangarai, New 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Robert Wilcox; Profes- 
sor J. P. Leotsakos, Lakonia, Greece; J. H. Duyvense, 
Jr., Amsterdam; Elinor Glyn, Sheering Harbor, Essex, 
who added, "The light that will light the world"; 


Carlo Umbrosol, Como, Italy; George W. Oliver, 
Washington, D. C.; P. G. Norberg, Goleberg, Sweden. 

Dr. Arturo Spozio, Milano, Italy; Carlo Camacho, 
Director of Pathological Education, Santiago, Chile; 
Pablo Hoffmann, Mexico; James Bryce (Lord Bryce) 
of Oriel College, Oxford; E. Marion Bryce; Benjamin 
Ide Wheeler, Berkeley; Elbert Hubbard, Alice Hub- 
bard, New York City; Dr. Tschemratx, Vienna, Aus- 

John Burroughs, West Point, N. Y.; J. Watase, 
Tokyo, Japan; S. Vrooman, Fehoe, India; George 
Sterling, who added, "Most great men are doing more 
harm than good not you" ; A. Kolpin Rawn, Copen- 
hagen, Denmark; Charles Ernest Lofthus, Norway; 
James Daly, Board of Agriculture, Dublin; Dionisius 
Roodsiuski, Moscow, Russia; F. J. Harper > Platkop, 
South Africa; Jose C. Zelston, San Jose, Costa Rica; 
Count Ferdinand Nermes, Budapest, Hungary. 

Ambassador Juan Vignoli, Montevideo, Uruguay; 
Dr. George von Wendt, Finland; J. de Argoleo, Jr., 
Paris, France; Koka Fuur Vaman, Bombay, India; 
Veil Savich, Tiflis, Caucasus; Varaji Rajaram, Kol- 
hapur, India. 

Thomas A. Edison, Henry Ford, Clara J. Ford, Edsel 
B. Ford, H. S. Firestone; Opie Read, Chicago; Dr. 
J. W. Macfarlane, Pittsburgh. In the midst of his 
busiest days, Luther Burbank entertained Mr. and 
Mrs. Walter Martin of London, England, who motored 
from Los Angeles, Cal., to extend their hearty sym- 
pathy with "the spirit of his brave utterance." 



For many years the home of Luther Burbank was 
a kind of Mecca to which men and women from all 
parts of the globe were attracted. Their visits 
were inspired by deep, personal interest in the man, 
his life-work and the world-wide fame that his suc- 
cess in science had created for him. 

Of the hundreds on thousands who have thus made 
this pilgrimage, few have left without catching a 
modicum of the spirit of love and peace that abided 
there. It saturated his personality and grew more 
intense with the years. 

His home reminded one of the villas nestling in the 
slopes of Perugia, that garden spot of Italy. It is 
embosomed in a settled serenity, comparable to the 
composure accompanying the silent growth of the 
plants and flowers. 

But this serenity was by no means the offspring of 
ease and leisure. 

Work to Luther Burbank was prayer in action. 
There was not, perhaps, a busier man in the State of 
California. The public does not know that in recent 
years few men have had better opportunities of study- 
ing the human plant in more varied forms. Letters 
arrived daily, often in the hundreds, seeking informa- 
tion as to his scientific work, his philosophy of life, his 



religious opinions and beliefs. There was always a 
stream of correspondence, from all parts of the world, 
requiring personal attention. Add to those duties the 
daily procession of visitors, and his unselfish willing- 
ness to meet them whenever possible, and it is plain 
to see how that quiet home became, in truth, a very 
beehive of industry. 

Knowledge of this background is needed to under- 
stand the following exchange of letters between two 
close and life-long friends. 

On September 21, 1925, Thomas A. Edison thus 
wrote to him: 

Friend Burbank: I hope you are not thinking 
of stopping work. It would be dangerous to your 
he*alth. In a normal body, not injured by excesses, 
the mind is clear and more efficient as age in- 
creases, up to the end. I myself am approaching 
eighty. My mind is more active than ever. My 
body and all its parts are, of course, getting gray- 
headed, so to speak. I notice that I am getting 
awkward and my hearing is growing poor, but I 
still work eighteen hours a day at what I like 
and I enjoy it immensely. 

Very sincerely yours, 


In reply to this youthful and tireless worker, 
Burbank answered: 

My dear, wonderful Edison: Your kind and 
greatly appreciated letter received. The news- 


papers seem to be over-ambitious to place me on 
the retired list. No, my dear Mr. Edison, I have 
never had a thought of stopping work, have more 
interest in my work than ever before, enjoy the 
pursuit of knowledge and work better than ever 
before. Every muscle in my body is as supple as 
ever, but I cannot apply myself to such long hours 
of hard physical labor as I used to, but am always 
up and at work at 6:30 in the morning. The in- 
spiration of the early part of the day is superla- 
tive. It is a pity that I cannot dispose of my 
Sebastopol place without so much fuss, just to 
save time and give a little more attention to my 
extremely interesting Santa Rosa experiments. 
This, of course, does not require a reply or even to 
be read by such a busy man as you are. With 
profound admiration, love and esteem for your- 
self, and Mrs. Edison, I am always, 

Faithfully yours, 


And the spirit that permeated and controlled this 
daily schedule was so compact of living patience and 
kindly courtesy that it seemed to inform his body and 
mind with the buoyancy of youth. 

After her return to her Eastern home, Helen Keller 
published a remarkable account of her visit to 
Burbank, replete with human interest. This noble 
woman, blind and deaf and dumb, related with all the 
accuracy of a master mind how she had seen Luther 
Burbank, heard his voice and imaged in her mind the 
love and gentleness of his personality. 


My experiences in the home of Burbank taught me 
how the simple, trustful spirit of an earnest seeker 
after truth forms the major part of the equipment of 
the truly great scientist. They revealed, as naught 
else in a long ministry spent in large cities, how potent 
a force for good the spirit of love, of sweet tolerance, 
of human sympathy can be recognized to be by all 
sorts and conditions of men. 

His philosophy of life, his personal opinions and 
beliefs on the vital relationship of science to religion, 
in which I was privileged to share his deepest convic- 
tions, have done more to consolidate my faith than 
any other one of the human contacts of my entire 

His heart and soul were filled with sympathy for 
the millions of young men and young women chafing 
under the fetters of false tradition, their intelligence 
shocked by man-made creeds and false systems of 
belief. His one supreme desire was to revive within 
them a hope and love crushed by superstitious false- 
hoods, and put them in the way of a philosophy of life 
that would nourish their lives on the sunshine and joy 
of truth. 

Only in that light may the opinions and beliefs that 
follow be understood aright. 

Burbank's choice of the term "infidel," to express 
his attitude toward structural theology, aroused an 
interest more than nation-wide, confirming his belief 
that religion is a most vital force in the lives of the 
people. There is a conscious need of spiritual power 
to guide and strengthen men and women in an age 
of great doubt, of lawlessness and discontent. In the 


light of advanced science, he was convinced that heart 
and mind were never more receptive, provided truth 
is interpreted in terms of reason. He warned against 
forgetting the essential condition in terms of reason. 
None knew better than he how foolish it would be 
to minimize that yearning after something that will 
plant love and hope in the heart. Science, he believed, 
has been a mighty force in paving the way for this 
reception of a reasonable religious life. Mere ethical 
codes have failed; humanity needs a religion to mold 
human conduct, draw out the noblest that is in us, and, 
above all, bring us into the living consciousness of the 
great Creative Force. 

In analyzing this great mass of letters and telegrams 
from all parts of the world, the deepest impression 
made upon Burbank's mind was that structural the- 
ology had broken down. The writers of those nine 
thousand letters and telegrams from all over the world 
told their own story. What a harrowing picture of 
doubts, fears and despair they presented on the part 
of those who have severed themselves from institu- 
tional religion and find themselves adrift like hopeless 
castaways! .Men and women want a God as never 
before, but not the God falsely interpreted by man- 
made theologies. More than eighty per cent of them 
turned out to be earnest seekers yearning for a religion 
free from the meshes of superstition, worn-out medi- 
evalism and false beliefs. Those young men and 
women bared their very souls in confession of their 
failure to get the slightest comfort or strength or hope 
from such a religion, and how they thirsted for a 
religion that would satisfy their needs! They prove 


that preserving the integrity of our minds intact is of 
infinitely more value than a mere adherence to any 
creed or system. 

Burbank rejoiced that in his San Francisco address 
he had nominated himself an "infidel," as a challenge 
to thought for those who are asleep. He said in that 
address: "The word is harmless if properly used. Its 
stigma has been heaped upon it by unthinking people 
who associate it with the bogie devil and his malicious 
works. I am a lover of man and of Christ as a man, 
and his work, and all things that help humanity ; but 
nevertheless, just as he was an infidel then, I am an 
infidel to-day." When Christ, he added, dared to face 
the false teachers of his day, those self-righteous for- 
malists, and exposed their pseudo doctrines and hypoc- 
risies, he was denounced by them as an unbeliever. 
They gnashed upon him with their teeth. They 
accused him of "casting out devils through Beelze- 
bub, the prince of devils." They called him a mad- 
man. The stigma of infidelism represented only a 
part of their bitter hatred. No man in the history 
of the world was a greater infidel than Christ 
in relation to the errors of the day in which he 

When I pictured to Burbank the great and growing 
constituency who are disgusted and bitterly dis- 
appointed at the stupid superstitions, the narrow big- 
otry and hateful spirit kept alive under the name of 
religion, so vigorously championed by fundamentalists, 
he said that it was all absurd and illogical and 
benighted, that the term itself is a misnomer. Funda- 
mentalism, as a word, implies intelligence; whereas it 


is employed to represent organized ignorance. The 
so-called fundamentalist flouts the truth of evolution, 
attests his belief in the verbal and literal inspiration 
of the Bible, blinds his eyes to the frequent errors 
of text and alleged fact, proclaims man's total deprav- 
ity, insists that he was both conceived and born in 
sin, paints a fantastic heaven, consigns the uncon- 
verted sinner to a damnable hell-fire of eternal tor- 
ment, worships a god of Moloch-attributes and so 
on, beginning with the myth of Adam and Eve and 
crowning all with the millennium. 

While he was on the subject of fundamentalism, I 
referred to the late William Jennings Bryan's assumed 
leadership of this systematized assault upon intelli- 
gence. He quoted in. reply the following from his 
Science and Civilization.: 

Mr. Bryan was an honored friend of mine, yet 
this need not prevent the observation that the 
skull with which Nature endowed him visibly 
approached the Neanderthal type. Feelings and 
the use of gesticulations and words are more 
according to the nature of this type than investi- 
gations and reflection. Those who would legis- 
late against the teaching of evolution should 
also legislate against gravity, electricity and the 
unreasonable velocity of light, and also should 
introduce a clause to prevent the use of the tele- 
scope, the microscope and the spectroscope, or 
any other instrument of precision which may in 
the future be invented, constructed or used for 
the discovery of truth. 


He noticed in this mass of correspondence that the 
tone of the writers who defended fundamentalism was 
the essence of cocksureness. Many had written as if 
they were private secretaries to Jehovah. It would 
not be possible to overestimate the injury to truth 
resulting from their arrogant and bigoted stand against 
the facts demonstrated by the progress of science. 
He was reminded of the saying of Oliver Wendell 
Holmes, who said that "the bigot is like the pupil of 
the eye the more light you put upon it the more it 
will contract." 

I emphasized the widespread revolt of the young, 
intelligent minds of our country against the demand, 
in the face of the revelation of science, for uncondi- 
tional surrender made upon them in the name of blind 
faith. My ministry, which has dealt largely with 
young men, had convinced me that the bulk of the 
thoughtful ones are adrift. They rebel against this 
organized assault upon their intelligence. Just as soon 
as their studies reach the point that their childhood 
faith is shattered and they become convinced that they 
have been duped, that fable and fact have been 
jumbled together in their early instruction, they 
drop out in disgust. Hundreds come to me, in their 
distress, asking for help. The situation is heartbreak- 
ing. I was convinced that the story of his early experi- 
ences and an account of his final ransom from the 
shackles of superstition would be of priceless value to 
them a source of strength and hope. 

Burbank admitted this wholesale withdrawal of 
intelligent young men and young women from struc- 
tural religion. It was the logical the inevitable 


step. To have been able to help them would have 
been the joy of his life. If he found it necessary 
more than fifty years ago to take that stand to retain 
his self-respect, how much more urgent that necessity 
is in this day of illuminating spiritual power and accu- 
rate scientific research. 

His early religious training was the product of the 
false teaching of the day, typical of the New England 
religion of the "sixties." As a young member of the 
Baptist Church of Lancaster, Massachusetts, his mind 
was filled with images of a God that made this world 
a dark, forbidding dwelling place. At a time when 
religion, which is a sentiment, should have developed 
in him a personality of trustful love, God was pictured 
as a being of severe, cruel attributes, a stem judge 
with the advocate, Jesus, staying the avenging hand. 
Fear was used like the lash of a slave-owner to force 
people to "Christian living." A hell of eternal torment 
was pictured before his young mind. The devil was 
imaged, in the language of Peter, to be the dread 
adversary, a "roaring lion," walking about seeking 
whom he might devour. Human conduct was fash- 
ioned on the doctrine of rewards and punishments. 
The message of hope might be summed up in the 
words, "He that believeth not shall be damned." As 
he was conceived and born in sin, the creature of 
total depravity, he was encouraged to look upon him- 
self as a worm of the dust. It was a religion of cold, 
conventional, unloving, selfish spirit. Often his mind 
revolted, in its agony of doubt and distrust, for the 
entire system appealed to him as an outrage upon 
his youth and an absolute falsifying of life-values. 


The one redeeming fact in those days of fog was the 
loving, fostering care of his mother, whose spirit 
revolted against the puritanic gloom that surrounded 
them and permitted him to see another life unfolded 
to him by her love. In his seventeenth year came the 
first great awakening. Rambling one day in the woods, 
his thoughts were centered on the beautiful things 
of Nature, abounding on every hand, and the Infinite 
Creative Power behind all. As he drank in the beauty 
of form and color and fragrance, his mind caught a 
vision of the Infinite Being that was in harmony with 
the things he beheld in the realm of Nature. Then 
there came an ugly, dark cloud that caused the vision 
to vanish. It was that cruel, unloving, avenging God 
of his church, a thing of awful ugliness. It was all so 
hideous, so unreal to his young mind that he rose 
from the ground, as if to cast it from him. And when 
the cloud disappeared there came another vision 
infinitely clearer. He beheld God in the flowers and 
in the trees of the forest, in the purple hills beyond. 
He was revealed as the true, the only infinite Creative 
Force, and as he beheld him so a flood of light came 
into his being and an overwhelming joy ineffable pos- 
sessed him. Surely, "The invisible things of him from 
the creation of the world are clearly seen, being under- 
stood by the things that are made." The bare thought 
of having such a being imaged before his mind any 
longer in terms of unloveliness, of accursed supersti- 
tions, of hatred and revenge, caused him to fling the 
lying deception from him. 

It was the God of love, the God of science that was 
opened out invitingly to his young mind. And the 


cruelty, the baseness of defaming such a Being in the 
falsehoods of a religious system filled him with shame 
and horror. Then it was that he made up his mind 
to smash the chains of superstition that bound him, 
and assert his freedom from the tyranny of tradition. 
A conscious cosmic power possessed him, leaving the 
deepest and most abiding impression on his young 
life. From that hour, the church had lost its power 
over him, and it was lost forever. Sixty years have 
passed years that demanded from him the closest, 
most patient investigation in the path of science. 
These experiences were a power in working out his 
philosophy of life. And the closer he was carried into 
the secrets of Nature, the nearer he found himself 
to the great, almighty Force. He never failed him. 
The spirit of life, sunlight and truth crushed within 
him the spirit of darkness, superstition and death. It 
was his belief that the God within us is the only 
available God we know, or can know, and the clear 
light of science teaches us that we must be our own 
saviors, if we are to be found worth saving; in other 
words, we must depend upon the "Kingdom within." 
What an experience! What a glorious ransom from 
spiritual bondage! And yet thousands on thousands 
of young men and women are to-day passing through 
the same experience. We were taught in the "eighties" 
just what he was taught in the "sixties." When I was 
an undergraduate in dear old Trinity College, Dublin, 
I was in contact with hundreds of young men who 
yearned for a like freedom. We were bound in chains 
mightier far in Ireland than those he endured in New 
England. Our university professors chafed under the 


dogmatism thrust upon them. The pulpit of our 
college chapel was denied John Pentland Mahaffy, 
our ablest scholar, for daring to question certain theo- 
logical drivel. Professor Lee was threatened with a 
heresy trial for denying the verbal inspiration of the 
Bible. One day, in our Greek class, Mahaffy turned 
from his "Homer" to answer the question of a student 
on a matter of ethics, and the talk switched into 
religion. Finally he said: "It may not be in my day; 
but you, young gentlemen, will live to see a new 
religion a religion molded by scholarship and science, 
and that day will spell 'doom' for structural theology." 
It sounded like a confirmation of Canon Farrar, of the 
Church of England, who said: "Science has had a 
struggle for life against the fury of theological dog- 
matists, but in every instance the dogmatists have 
been ignominiously defeated." 

Burbank was convinced that day is now here. It 
was the dream of his life his constant hope that we 
might live to see the KELIGION OF HUMANITY. Yes! it 
is now here, he said. He meant the religion of sym- 
pathy, kindness, love, peace, harmony and health. It 
is the spirit of life, soul-light, not darkness, supersti- 
tion and death. Science, he went on, has shown us all 
that we know about what we call God there is no 
other real knowledge besides; all else is without a 
shadow of proof for those who think. As he looked 
back upon the events of the last quarter of a century, 
he could trace its gradual approach and unfolding. A 
new spirit had come into the world, as the evolution 
of science. Error is giving way to truth, as evil does 


when overcome with good. There was first needed a 
tearing down, before the building up. And the 
wreckers of the old musty beliefs and superstitions are 
a preparatory part of the very structure. As John 
Fiske said: "One and all the orthodox creeds are 
crumbling into ruins everywhere. We now witness 
the constructive work on a foundation that will endure 
through the ages. That foundation is the god of sci- 
ence revealed to us in terms that will harmonize with 
our intelligence." 

The world, he said, is sure to welcome with intense 
interest this conception of the basic principles of the 
Religion of Humanity. Millions of men and women in 
this country, and beyond the seas, are ready for it. 
How the writers of those thousands of letters appeal 
for more light and the expression for their benefit of 
a reasonable faith and hope! 

The Religion of Humanity, Burbank felt, will be 
founded on belief in one Eternal Energy almighty 
and omnipresent. This universe without a God was 
incredible to him. Huxley never wrote anything more 
logical, in his judgment, than this: 

I am utterly unable to conceive the existence 
of matter, if there is no mind to feature that 
existence. The problem of the ultimate cause of 
existence is one which seems to me hopelessly 
out of reach of my poor powers. Of all the sense- 
less babble, the demonstrations of these philos- 
ophers who undertake to tell us all about the 
nature of God would be the worst, if they were 


not surpassed by the still greater absurdities of 
the philosophers who try to prove that there is 
no God. 

In reading this statement to me, Burbank accentu- 
ated the words: "// they were not surpassed by the 
still greater absurdities of the philosophers who try 
to prove that there is no God." Take Buddhism, for 
example, he exclaimed. While his teaching seemed 
to eliminate the idea of a god, his followers, finding 
it necessary to worship some god, made a god of 
Buddha. This same thing befell the teaching of Zara- 
thustra in ancient Persia. Religion cannot be founded 
on a principle; it needs the power of an Eternal 
Energy, almighty and omnipresent. Burbank had 
already made that point clear when he said : "I prefer 
and claim the right to worship the infinite, everlasting, 
almighty God of this vast universe as revealed to 
us gradually, step by step, by the demonstrable truths 
of our savior, science." 

Yet, in the face of that statement, hundreds 
denounced him by letter as an "atheist." It is true 
he was an atheist in his utter denial of the God of 
the theologians, but that denial makes his faith all 
the stronger in the God of science. 

One Eternal Energy! One Infinite Spirit! There 
will you find the foundation of his faith, the one 
Supreme Source of the philosophy of his life. And this 
Infinite Energy is the very life of the world, the inspi- 
ration of all things created. It is the idea of God, as 
revealed to us from the "Kingdom within." God is 
immanent, Burbank believed. "In Him we live, and 


move, and have our being." This Infinite Spirit was 
to him not a personality living in a distant realm, 
enthroned like a king, dispensing His authority. He 
is a part of everything created. He is in the plants, 
in the flowers, in the stars, in the worlds beyond. He 
is the one, supreme, in-dwelling God in our lives. 
With this Being it was Burbank's delight to live for 
sixty years, in the beauty and silences of Nature. His 
immanence was so real to him that he beheld Htm 
in the living things of Nature that passed through 
his hands. And for him, .this revelation of the 
"Kingdom within" destroyed all false conceptions of 

The old Hebrew, anthropomorphic conception of the 
Deity, he believed, is disappearing, forced out by an 
intelligence that brands it puerile and absurd. Man- 
made gods, as all religions indicate, were imaged in the 
likeness of man. His human virtues and his vices have 
been magnified in the nature of the gods. Revenge, 
jealousy and all the dark passions have been given 
recognition, side by side, with all the manly virtues. 
In this way we can understand the Buddha of the Chi- 
nese, the Jehovah of the Hebrews, the Ormuzd and 
Ahriman of the Persians, the Osiris of the Egyptians, 
the Teutates of the Gauls, the Jupiter of the Greeks, 
the great Allah of the Mussulman. Each age had its 
own god, who rose in quality in man's conception with 
the steps of advance of successive ages. God has been 
represented in the capacity of King, Man of War, 
Judge and Merciless Avenger, ruling his subjects with 
an arbitrary spirit. To this method of god-making, 
and the tendency of mankind to cling to the ruder 


conceptions, we owe, he maintained, the horrors of 
war, perpetuated through the ages. 

Burbank was conscious that those dark ages pos- 
sessed the beautiful sentiments of the Twenty-third 
Psalm and the rapturous music of the great poet 
Isaiah! He was cognizant that even the darkest ages 
have given to the world fragments of the richness of 
that "Kingdom within," which rose high above the sav- 
agery and crudeness abounding on every hand. But, 
he said, we know that those ages were influenced for 
evil by the falseness of the gods thus created. Follow- 
ing are the words, from the pen of Camille Flam- 
marion, taken from his Dreams of an Astronomer, to 
which Burbank once invited me to listen: 

The search for the nature of the First Cause 
I do not say "the knowledge of God" which would 
be an expression worthy a "theologian" and 
absurd in itself but simply the search for the 
absolute Being, for the origin of the energy which 
sustains, animates and governs the universe, for 
the intelligent force which acts everywhere and 
perpetually through infinity and eternity, and 
gives rise to the appearances which strike our 
eyes and are studied by our science this search, 
I say could not be undertaken nor even prop- 
erly conceived before the first discoveries of 
astronomy and modern physics. Man has con- 
ceived a God in his own likeness. It is in the 
name of this pretended God that monarchs and 
pontiffs have in all the ages, and under cover of 
all religions, bound humanity in a slavery from 
which it has not yet freed itself. It is in the 


name of this God who "protects Germany," "pro- 
tects England," "protects France," "protects Rus- 
sia," "protects Turkey," protects all the divisions 
and all the barbarities, that even in our own day 
the so-called civilized people of our planet have 
been armed in war against each other; like mad 
dogs have hurled themselves upon one another 
in a conflict over which falsehood and hypocrisy, 
seated on the steps of the thrones, figure a "God 
of Armies" as presiding, a God who blesses the 
daggers and plunges his hands in the smoking 
blood of victims to mark the forehead of kings. 
It is to this God that altars are raised and Te 
Deums are chanted. It is in the names of the 
gods of Olympus that the Greeks condemned 
Socrates to drink the hemlock; it is in the name 
of Jehovah that the high-priests and Pharisees 
crucified Jesus. It is in the name of Jesus, him- 
self become God, that fanaticism ignominiously 
condemned to the stake men like Giordano Bruno, 
Vanini, Etienne Dolet, John Huss, Savonarola, 
and numerous other heroic victims; that the 
Inquisition ordered Galileo to belie his conscience; 
that thousands and thousands of unfortunates 
accused of witchcraft were burnt alive in popular 
ceremonies; it was with the express benediction 
of Pope Gregory the Thirteenth that the butchery 
of St. Bartholomew drenched Paris in blood. 

"Strong words of a great scientist, built on facts!" 
Burbank exclaimed. 

He felt that to the Hebrews goes the credit of 
inventing the conception of our monotheistic Jewish- 


Christian God, who, however, is represented to be jeal- 
ous, cruel, vindictive, and to possess most of the weak- 
nesses and bad habits of primitive man. When Robert 
Ingersoll had the courage to flout the idea of such 
a God, he was branded a hardened atheist by the theo- 
logical dogmatists. What he did believe may be under- 
stood, in Burbank's estimation, from one of his last 
utterances: "I belong to the great church that holds 
the world within its starlit aisles; that claims the great 
and the good of every race and clime; that finds with 
joy the grain of gold in every creed, and floods with 
light and love the germs of good in every soul." 

Over the entrance of such a church, Burbank said, 
and it will appeal to vast millions, may be written the 
name of the God of science. 

He was sure that man, as time goes on, will picture 
in his soul God the spirit whose moral attributes tran- 
scend to infinity his own highest ideals of goodness. 
He will image the Spirit of Light and Love and Truth 
an all-loving Being so close to the poorest of his 
creatures that no go-between is needed. And as the 
"Kingdom within" develops those moral attributes, it 
will reveal glimpses into new depths of the eternal 
qualities of love, of mercy, of kindness, of peace, of 
harmony and health. 

For fifty years and more Burbank had lived and 
toiled in the deep silences of Nature, amid the lives of 
plants and flowers, and had experienced a small share 
of what such a Being may be to the sons of men. Such 
an Omnipresence needed for him no local habitation, 
no magic of sacrament, wherein to reveal himself. His 
presence permeates all. Under Jewish teaching, where 


racial religion was supreme, there was a "Holy of 
Holies." But in the words of Jesus: "Neither in this 
mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the 
Father. . . . God is a Spirit, and they that worship 
him must worship him in spirit and in truth." 

Toward this broader vision of the Eternal Spirit 
he was confident the world is fast moving. It has 
taken centuries to develop. Every new triumph in the 
world of science has hastened the day. The barriers 
of man-made creeds will be swept aside as unworthy 
and untrue expressions of His Being. The narrowness 
of sects, warring one against the other, will be lost in 
the revelation of one almighty God dwelling in every 
creature. This comprehensive ideal will gather within 
its folds the Universal Father, the biological concep- 
tion of a vital force, pervading the universe. 

This is all expressed in the sayings of the world's 
greatest Teacher, of whom Burbank began to talk in 
this wise. Jesus stands out, in bold relief, as greatest 
amongst the sons of men. The human, historic Jesus 
is the supreme fact of all time. This both Jews and 
Gentiles alike acknowledge, he declared, and the strong 
position concerning him taken recently by Rabbi 
Stephen Wise in New York is bold, logical and con- 
clusive. Jesus was our world's greatest teacher. 
Buddha left many important truths, as did Mohammed 
and Confucius; but they cannot compare with the 
truths that were taught by the humble Nazarene. 
Notwithstanding our altered civilization, our advance 
in science and social betterment, his teaching is as real 
and natural to our spiritual discernment to-day as it 
was when he spoke to that small group of unlearned 


and illiterate men and women by the sea of Galilee. 
That fact alone would place him first amongst the 
teachers of the world. Truth alone stands the test 
of time. Truth alone may be applied to all ages and 
conditions. Jesus was an idealist, he reminded me, 
and his rules of daily living must always be analyzed 
with this fact in mind. Men may mock at the imprac- 
ticable nature of his teachings, as an impossible code 
to regulate the world of business, of society, of morals; 
or they may brand him as "out of date." But they 
mock because they want to change his teaching to 
suit their mode of living, rather than to change their 
mode of living to conform with his teaching. Truth 
was imaged on the camera of his mind with a clearness 
and finality unique amongst men. 

That explained, in Burbank's judgment, the revolt 
of all forms of error and falsehood. Jesus came "not 
to destroy, but to fulfil." He found that the Jewish 
religion had lost its vital spark. All kinds of super- 
stition, peculiar to dark ages, had so distorted the 
message of the Jehovah that noonday was turned into 
night. And as a logical result, his generation became 
creatures of the letter that killeth, and lost the spirit 
that giveth life. Their desecration of the Temple 
typified their utter callousness. As a Jew, his young 
life was wholly given up to a merciless exposure of the 
rottenness of their system of belief. To Burbank, his 
denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees is the sever- 
est arraignment of error and hypocrisy in all history. 
Jesus was the infidel of his day and generation. With 
petrified hypocrites thirsting for his blood, Calvary 
was his inevitable goal, so far was he in advance of 


his time. Nothing in history equals the spirit of 
hatred, of bitter enmity that sent him to his death. 
Passion so blinded men that they could see in him 
no beauty of character. His hatred of organized false- 
hood was only equaled by his love of unspoiled human- 
ity. No man ever lived who uttered his message with 
such naturalness and simplicity. Jesus, of all great 
teachers, claimed least for self. Of no one were greater 
claims falsely made. His humanness is the jewel of 
his soul. He lived a life of poverty, of self-abnegation, 
of a vagabond, for "he had not where to lay his head." 
He was the friend of publicans and of sinners. He 
saw in every man and every woman the best and the 
noblest, and inspired them with hope and courage. 
His love for little children, for the poor and the 
oppressed, for the earnest seeker after truth is unparal- 
leled in history. His psychical powers were beyond 
the range of calculation. Had he been interpreted 
through the ages just as he was, his life amongst men 
would harmonize with the truths of advanced science. 
The man Jesus lived, Burbank went on, the most 
beautiful life in history. The God Jesus, as developed 
in subsequent ages by man-made creeds, he said, is a 
distortion of the truth of that life. Structural theology 
has built up an entirely false interpretation of his 
being. Burbank had no hesitation in asserting that the 
Christianity of the twentieth century, as framed by 
theological dogmatists, is absolutely different from the 
simple, direct truths taught by Jesus. His humanity 
is merged in doctrines of deification. He who rebuked 
a certain ruler for addressing him as "Good Master," 
and added, "Why callest thou me good? there is none 


good but one, that is, God," is now called "Very God of 
very God, begotten not made, being of one substance 
with the Father." If he were alive in human flesh 
to-day, how he would rebuke those makers of idols! 
All this is a relic of polytheism. 

Burbank loved to think of him as the babe of Beth- 
lehem, the child of Nazareth, the son of the carpenter, 
the friend of man, the son of God, whose love, gentle- 
ness, patience, mercy and spirit of self-sacrifice make 
him divine. His reverence and love toward him were 
too great to worship him. His incarnation is turned 
into mist by the doctrine of the virgin birth, he main- 
tained. His ministry has been clouded with the mirac- 
ulous. Angels and demons have been invented to 
hover around his person. We lose sight of the human 
Jesus in the aureole of Deity created by simple-minded'- 
followers, magnified by theologians and colored by 
artists and poets through the centuries. His person- 
ality is lost in the confusion of metaphysics. This will 
account for the story of his bodily resurrection, and 
his ascension, in bodily form, to take his place at the 
right hand of the throne of God. This false conception 
of the son of God is the essence of anthropomorphism. 

In contrast, the Christ of science will be a potent 
force, he predicted, in the Religion of Humanity. He 
will be reverenced as first of all the great teachers of 
the world. He will be interpreted as he lived and died 
amongst men. He will be the greatest personality of 
all time in pointing out to man the "Kingdom within." 
This is what Burbank meant when he said in his 
address: "We must not be deceived by blind leaders 
of the blind, calmly expecting to be 'saved' by any one 


except by the Kingdom within ourselves. The truly 
honest and brave ones know that if saved it must be 
by their own efforts." Amongst the new cults in organ- 
ized rebellion against the false conceptions of the 
Jesus of the gospel we find Christian Science. The 
accession to that cult of so many Jews seemed to him 
an indication of the yearning for a reasonable basis 
of belief in the ranks of Judaism. 

He foretold that millions would hail as reasonable 
this attitude in relation to the God whom we love to 
call Infinite Spirit. With this monotheistic founda- 
tion this Religion of Humanity will re-interpret the 
Bible on a basis that will make a similar appeal of 
reasonableness to men with a modern training, he 
declared. The New Religion will interpret the Bible 
.in the light of modern science and scholarship. 

As Burbank in his address in San Francisco made 
clear, the Bible should be treated with everyday 
common sense. "Let us read the Bible," he then said, 
"without the ill-fitting colored spectacles of theology, 
just as we read other books, using our own judgment 
and reason, listening to the voice within, not to the 
noisy babble without." Strange to say, in religion 
only have men persisted in defending exploded the- 
ories. In every branch of science, when facts are 
revealed that oppose long-established beliefs, the old 
error has to give way to new truth. It was so in the 
science of medicine on the discovery of the circulation 
disease was radically altered. No medical scientist 
. of the blood by Dr. Harvey, when the treatment of 
could cling to the old and retain his place as a physi- 
cian. It was true of astronomy when the discovery of 


Galileo swept away the false systems relating to the 
universe. It is so in every scientific study. 

Burbank was compelled, during his fifty years of 
research, to reject many an error in the treatment of 
plant life, and his success was largely due, he felt, to 
his intuitive insistence in rejecting the false and apply- 
ing the true. Science and the God of science are one. 
Religion and science owe their life to the same Source. 
No one can hope to stop the progress of science any 
more than he can the progress of the suns and the stars 
in their courses. Yet when we turn to religion we find 
a mode of operation in fashion destructive to the truth. 
Men of reputed intelligence insist on clinging to false- 
hood, in, spite of the positive demonstration of science 
to the contrary and the veto pronounced by the critical 
research of scholarship. 

Take, for example, he said, the story of creation as 
contained in the book of Genesis. No scientist would 
dare to endorse it as a fact in history. It belongs in 
the long list of myths abounding in those books sup- 
posed to have been written by Moses. Yet men have 
the audacity to face audiences of recognized mentality 
with the blatant affirmation that it is one of the great 
facts of history. Errors of text, errors of incident, 
errors of numerals are constantly to be found through- 
out the books that compose the Bible. Fact and 
fable are mixed together in bewildering confusion. 
Poetry and prose are interpreted as of equal historical 
value. A satanic devil is clothed with a personality 
expressed in terms as clearly defined as that of 
almighty God. Yet in the face of this all too patent 
situation, those men, whose vocation implies an intel- 


ligent knowledge of the Bible, cling to the doctrine of 
verbal inspiration with the vain notion that the integ- 
rity of "the word of God" must be conserved, even 
by believing an untruth. This is an assault, he main- 
tained, upon intelligence. It is the continued applica- 
tion of medieval methods in an age of enlightenment. 

Thus may we account for the present tottering state 
of structural religion. It is inevitable that every false 
claim which the student detects weakens his faith in 
the integrity of the Bible. And it likewise weakens 
his faith in the integrity of that interpreter. He 
reasons that the man, in spite of his profession that 
he has been "divinely called/' is either grossly ignorant 
or wilfully misleading. If the false claims advanced 
by him are the result of ignorance, his right to stand 
in the pulpit is questionable; if, on the other hand, 
he knowingly insists that falsehood is truth, the integ- 
rity of his character is shaken. 

If the Religion of Humanity may hope to restore 
the faith of the millions who have rejected structural 
theology, Burbank once said, the Bible will be accepted 
as a part revelation of the God of science. Its influ- 
ence through the centuries has been felt in the heart 
of all nations. It has been translated into every lan- 
guage, and its teachings have molded countless mil- 
lions of lives in nobleness of character. Of all books 
it is the most sacred and the most precious. We call 
it a book, whereas it is a series of revelations from the 
crudest ages to the second century of the Christian era. 
Its circulation throughout the world is equal to that 
of all other books combined. And as the ages roll on, 
it will continue to be a mighty force in shaping the 


destiny of men and of nations. No literature in the 
world of letters can compare with it. You will search 
in vain, he told me, for the poet who can surpass the 
Prophet Isaiah. His thoughts have risen to heights 
beyond human imagination. The simple beauty of 
the sayings of Jesus transcends anything in the world's 
religions. But the Bible is only one of the varied 
ways in which the Spirit of the Infinite is made 
known. He has revealed himself through Confucius, 
Mohammed, Buddha and other great leaders, whose 
writings have influenced, and still influence, millions 
of lives. In revelation, as in all things, the law of 
evolution has been at work. Ideas have been trans- 
planted from the soil of one religion to that of another, 
without an effort to link the sources. Quoting a well- 
known scholar, he said: "There is hardly a great or 
fruitful idea in the Jewish or Christian system which 
has not its analogy in the ancient Egyptian faith." 
Out of systems of religion that our so-called Chris- 
tian civilization calls "pagan" have been evolved 
truths that taught men how to live the noblest type 
of life. 

The Religion of Humanity, he predicted, will extend 
a welcome to the religions of the world whose teach- 
ings have inspired men to deeds of love, of mercy, of 
service to their fellows. In the light of these facts, 
we must share with them the duty of a world salva- 
tion. It was a Christian scholar, he cautioned me, who 
admitted that "Moslem morality is better than our 
own. Islam has abolished drunkenness, gambling and 
prostitution the three curses of Christian lands." 
Revelation is not static; it is progressive. Yet theo- 


logians will insist in claiming that the Bible is a "final" 
revelation. Upon whose authority was the canon of 
Scripture closed? Burbank quoted in this connection 
his position as set forth in his address: "I prefer and 
claim the right to worship the infinite, everlasting, 
almighty God of this vast universe as revealed to us 
gradually, step by step, by the demonstrable truths of 
our savior, science." He is revealed in our own day 
with a power greater than that shown in the past, for 
the reason that such revelation is made by the sim- 
plicity of science, not by the illusion of miracle. 
Every fresh conquest in the sphere of science, espe- 
cially those that add to the sum of human happiness, 
is a revelation confirming the love and almightiness of 
God. He is revealed in the modern discoveries of 
science that have prolonged human life, lessened 
human pain and conquered disease. We have con- 
cluded the first quarter of our century with a record 
of revelations unique in the history of the world. We 
now stand in the dawn of a radiant morn that promises 
a flood of light from truth unfolded by the critical 
work of scholarship and the fresh discoveries of sci- 
ence. And the second quarter of our century, he ven- 
tured to predict, will see a still greater revelation. 
That precious Book, preserved through the mist of 
ages, will be interpreted in the light of the law that 
controls the literature of the world. It will reveal 
the God of science, stripped of the superstitions that 
have made His name grotesque, and present a version 
of His character acceptable to an age of enlightenment. 
It will dispel the magic of miracle and express the 
almightiness of the Infinite Spirit in terms of natural 


law. Sacraments of miraculous conceit will be inter- 
preted in their true spirit. Dogmatic arrogancy will 
give way to the right of individual variation in belief. 
And when that Book is truly understood we are bound 
to learn, he emphasized, that religion is as natural to 
man and as important to each human being and to 
the welfare of society as breathing, but, like love, it 
cannot be fully described by any single fact. It is 
justice, love, truth, peace and harmony combined a 
serene unity at peace with science and the laws of 
the universe. The religion of science, ethics, service, 
and of love and good will is not indissolubly connected 
with obsolete misleading theologies, which bear the 
same relation to the essence of true religion that scar- 
let fever, mumps and measles do to education. Even 
men to-day are far from free. They are still slaves 
to war, crime, bigotry and ignorance the only "unpar- 
donable sin"; slaves to unnumbered ancient taboos, 
superstitions, prejudices and fallacies. But one by one 
these are slowly and surely weakening under the clear 
light of the morning of science, the savior of mankind. 
Science, which has opened our eyes to the vastness 
of the universe, has replaced darkness, ignorance, big- 
otry and superstition with light, truth and freedom 
from fear. Such is the picture he drew of a world in 
which the true Savior has been revealed. 

On the subject of prayer, Burbank was equally illu- 
minating. To him prayer was truly the life of religion. 
But the entire conception of prayer, he said, has been 
perverted by false, superstitious ideas concerning an 
omnipresent God. The reality of prayer depends upon 
a truer conception of the Being with whom communion 


is sought. One needs only to think of the many false 
ways in which such a God is interpreted. He is pic- 
tured as Ruler of the universe, enthroned in heavenly 
habitation, dispensing His will as in the early days of 
the Hebrew people. He is the "God of Armies." As 
such in great crises is he approached and his aid 
invoked. Thus, during the World War, ending in 
November of 1918, in which the Christian nations 
combined to kill off ten million lives of the flower 
of the world's manhood, each nation petitioned this 
"God of Armies" to direct the instruments of death to 
its victory and His eternal glory. No war in history 
was waged with more diabolical cruelty. No tortures 
in the darkest ages of heathendom could compare with 
the fiendishness of the weapons employed and the 
awful human destruction involved. Every victory, 
with blood-lust fierce as the tiger, was hailed with 
national thanksgiving and accepted as direct answer 
to the suppliant cries of the people. 

He is pictured as the anthropomorphic God, the 
superman, who once "walked in the garden in the cool 
of the day"; with long, flowing beard, like Michel- 
angelo's God in the Sistine Chapel; or like Otricoli's 
Roman Jupiter in the Vatican, cringing beggars kneel- 
ing before him, craving every form of temporal gift. 
Millions of such petitions, including favors as numer- 
ous as the stars, are uttered at the same moment of 

He is pictured as the God of theology, who presides 
over a world into which every child that is born is 
the "child of wrath," demanding the cleansing power 
of rite or sacrament to save its life from eternal 


destruction. Conceived and born in sin and pre- 
damned at birth! And this same God is petitioned to 
release from the burning torments of hell, in response 
to the appeals of the "faithful," those who have been 
there consigned. 

Such horrible conceptions of God, he believed, make 
communion between the finite and the Infinite impos- 
sible. Prayers to such a Deity may float on the 
incensed air in tones of celestial music or in the minor 
chanting of long-drawn-out litanies, but they reach 
only the prescribed area that scientifically regulates 
the limit of sound. That there has been a revolt 
against those perverted ideas of God is everywhere 
apparent. No far-off Ruler, enthroned in majesty and 
splendor, no anthropomorphic God, clothed in the gar- 
ment of man's imagination, no cruel monster, whose 
purpose in creation is fulfilled in destruction, no vin- 
dictive God, who takes pleasure in human misery, will 
satisfy men to-day. Those false conceptions of the 
Deity are doomed in the light of science. Prayer has 
become a lost force in the world, not because man 
does not feel its need, but simply because he prefers 
to retain his manhood by refusal to treat with such 
a God. Many of the most uncompromising atheists 
in the religion of theology are ardent theists in the 
religion of science. 

The Religion of Humanity, he thought, will reveal 
a God within us as the only companionable God we 
can know. " 'Tis life and more of life we want." Life 
as we see it around us on this planet is usually thought 
to be confined to man, animals and plants, those 
organisms which grow and reproduce their kind with 


more or less precision. "Why should we omit crystals, 
which grow as truly as plants and reproduce them- 
selves quite as precisely true to type, or the more prim- 
itive forms of life which are reproduced by division? 
Science is proving that the world is not half dead, 
but that every atom is all life and motion," were his 

Now, as the God of science reveals Himself, we 
become conscious of a greater, stronger, more abundant 
life, of a spiritual universe rilled with an all-loving, 
Spiritual Energy. This spiritual universe is the sub- 
stantial, the real, for it nurtures our ideas, our aspira- 

Burbank often said to me that as he wandered 
amongst his plants and flowers and watched the grad- 
ual unfolding of Nature, his mind entered into cosmic 
communion with this inner, spiritual world, of which 
Nature is but a passing symbol. And in his cosmic 
consciousness, he said, God was within. He manifested 
Himself within him, around him. He was a conscious 
part of him. Infinitely beyond the power of demon- 
stration, He was so real that self was lost in Him. 
The God of science is, therefore, all in all, he believed. 
If this were a mere passing experience, he said, a tran- 
sient thrill of ecstasy, it would leave behind the sus- 
picion that it might be only a piece of abnormal 
expression. But for fifty years and over he felt the 
abiding consciousness of this fellowship, intensified, 
as he believed, by the closeness of his life to Nature. 
And this uninterrupted fellowship revealed not only 
the God of science, but the law of the spiritual uni- 
verse. As the result of over fifty years spent in the 


handling of plants, he had been amazed at the accu- 
racy of natural law. He never found any calculation, 
based on the known laws of Nature, to err. Millions 
on millions of plants passed through his hands and 
he was struck by this precision. He had never been 
disappointed. He was convinced that the same Spirit- 
ual Enegry is controlling the spiritual universe. It is 
natural law in the spiritual world. Nothing is hap- 
hazard. There is no such thing as blind force. One 
sublime order pervades this unseen universe, with the 
almighty God within and behind all. It is not a God 
from the outside, as he explained it, drawn toward 
him by the appeal of his inner being, but rather the 
God rising within him, producing an overwhelming 
consciousness of the Infinite. In the conscious pres- 
ence of this Power will be found the sources of the 
religious life. It cultivates, as nothing else can, the 
sentiment of awe and reverence, the love of goodness 
and beauty, all the tender pure passions of Nature. 
In the failure to grasp this truth may be found the 
prevailing perversion of prayer. 

Is it strange, then, that prayer should have appealed 
to him as a force, absolutely independent of the human 
voice? To the omnipresent Spirit the only language 
that is real is the language of action. Because such 
a Being is approachable and this mode of approach 
is as natural as the attitude of a child toward its 
mother, the Religion of Humanity will appeal to intel- 
ligence. And therein lies the sole basis of happiness. 
It is enough to know that man's life, man's sphere, 
man's destiny are in the keeping of such a Power. 
He was sure that no human relation could ever draw 


the lives of earnest men and women into a bond so 
sacred and serene. It brings effort and action, peace 
and helpfulness. 

The consciousness of such a bond impels the mind 
of reason to revolt against the degraded habits of 
prayer so common in structural religion. Noisy beg- 
gars, he called them, with clamorous petitions, address 
themselves to the Deity with an air of vulgar assur- 
ance. They utter words, words, words, with a "Coue" 
contempt for meaning and purpose, believing "they 
will be heard for their much speaking." For such a 
spirit of a mutilated religion did the prophet of old 
express his contempt, when he mocked the prophets 
of Baal and said: "Cry aloud: for he is a god; either 
he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, 
or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked." 
Men who thus interpret the omnipresent God miss 
the source of truth. And the loss is beyond calcula- 
tion. Scientifically accepted, he believed, there are 
hidden powers capable of being developed in this 
spiritual fellowship that surpass the comprehension of 
mind. They account for the force of personality, of 
self-control, of renewed strength, of the great love 
toward our fellow man expressed in the joy of service 
for their good, for the calm assurance that this omni- 
present God is all-love and all-truth. A terrible load 
of responsibility rests upon the heads of those who 
hold earnest lives back from the supreme privilege of 
communing with God by presenting to them distorted 
Deities before whom they refuse to kneel. 

Burbank was a sincere admirer of George Eliot, and 
once read to me a letter written by her to Harriet 


Beecher Stowe, dated May 6, 1869, which gives expres- 
sion to these sentiments: 

I believe that religion has to be modified 
"developed," according to the dominant phrase 
and that a religion more perfect than any yet 
prevalent must express less care for personal con- 
solation, and a more deeply awing sense of respon- 
sibility to man, springing from sympathy with 
that which of all things is most certainly known 
to us, the difficulty of the human lot. I do not 
find my temple in Pantheism, which, whatever 
might be its value speculatively, could not yield 
a practical religion, since it is an attempt to look 
at the universe from the outside of our relations 
to it [that universe] as human beings. As 
healthy, sane human beings, we must love and 
hate love what is good for mankind, hate what 
is evil for mankind. 

Here now we come, he commented, to the great 
dividing line that separates the old from the new 
religion. With her keen spiritual insight and high 
moral courage, George Eliot expresses it in matchless 
form: "A religion more perfect than any yet prevalent 
must express less care for personal consolation, and 
a more deeply awing sense of responsibility to man, 
springing from sympathy with that which of all things 
is most certainly known to us, the difficulty of the 
human lot." He tried to give utterance to much the 
same thought in his address in San Francisco: "Let 
us have one world at a time and let us make the 
journey one of joy to our fellow passengers and just 


as convenient and happy for them as we can, and 
trust the rest as we trust life." 

Institutional religion is divided, it seemed to him, 
in interest between two worlds, with over-attention 
to the hereafter. As David Starr Jordan well said: 
"To live in two worlds at once is to unfit oneself for 
life in any world." It is true that in proportion as 
men have dwelt in the hereafter they have neglected 
the here-and-now. It is simply impossible that people 
should be absorbingly interested in a personal and 
selfish fashion in the hereafter, and at the same time 
be interested, in a noble and humane way, in the life 
that now is. This is seen in the effect which this 
attitude produced upon the lives of the first disciples 
in the Christian faith. Their intense interest in the 
future life caused them to be indifferent to the present 
and made of them poor citizens. How could it be other- 
wise? They looked for a hasty and sudden end during 
their lifetime to things earthly, and their absorption 
in what they called the "second coming" left them no 
inspiration to better human conditions. Paul was 
compelled to write to one church to calm the fears of 
the disciples over the expected cataclysm and to assure 
them there was no immediate danger. These early 
Christians had a magnified self-interest in the future 
life. Present conditions were lost sight of in the atten- 
tion given to future glory or punishment. Religious 
revivals in days past reflect this same attitude. 
Preachers played on the emotion of their hearers by 
painting a fantastic heaven with the brush of Sweden- 
borg, and a hell with the carmine of Dante. 

On the other hand, he thought that there had been 


a complete reversal in recent decades in the human 
outlook upon life. No longer is man thrilled by the 
rapturous vision of a future heaven nor terrified by 
the dread descriptions of a future hell. Both have had 
their day creations of dark, noisome superstition. In 
the light of science the glorious present is all impor- 
tant; the Oriental imagery of the future belongs to 
fable. Heaven and hell are here and now. As Milton 
said: "The mind is its own place and in itself can 
make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." "Let us have 
one world at a time." In the face of a structural 
religion that brings to mind empty churches and tens 
of millions of men and women who have no desire 
for it, there is a challenge going forth from the 
Religion of Humanity that will meet with a universal 
response. It will evoke that response because it will 
appeal to the noblest, the best that is in them. It will 
see in all men some good the real capable of being 
developed to unlimited power. It will fit men and 
women for their true place in life and never fail to 
give the helping hand. It was this thought, he felt, 
that captured the imagination of George Eliot and 
filled her mind with a new vision. To see in all men 
some good means that the inspiration has been found 
to help them. 

With his plants, Luther Burbank always started 
with sound, wholesome life and worked upon that as 
a sure foundation. Theology starts out wrong. To 
brand an innocent babe born into this world without 
its own volition as the child of wrath and, as it grows 
into maturity, to add the damnable doctrine of total 
depravity is an awful crime against humanity. If he 


dared to treat his plants as religionists treat the moral 
being, he said, he would have been the greatest failure 
in the long list of scientists. It would be like casting 
a blight upon their young plant lives before the first 
experiment was tried. Human plants are more sensi- 
tive and respond even more rapidly to proper treat- 
ment. A religion founded on an abiding faith in the 
love of the everlasting God of this universe is the great 
need of humanity. This will be the supreme test. 
"Pure religion and undefiled" applies a spark to our 
better impulses, and directs their forces into channels 
of human betterment. 

Fired by the consciousness of man's true place in 
the world and directed for his good, the New Religion 
will summon into active play great stores of human 
energies now latent. Glittering generalities will give 
place to personal forces hard at work. The words 
"service for others," for example, will acquire a new 
meaning. Love will be its inspiring power and unself- 
ishness its very soul. During the past fifty years, the 
greatest movements for the uplift of humanity have 
sprung from sources outside the churches. Religion, 
as interpreted by our race, has developed the sentiment 
of self-interest. Men are asked to choose between the 
alternatives offered by a God with heaven in the one 
hand and hell in the other. With such a God the 
average man of self-respect wants to have nothing to 
do. No religion based on selfishness can survive. 
Pure religion consists of active philanthropy and per- 
sonal holiness. Religion is real when man, under the 
power of its influence, loses himself in the good of his 
fellow man. That was the secret in the life of the man 


of Galilee, who "went about doing good." Renuncia- 
tion was the law of Christ. If men would dwell less 
on the miracles which an age of magic attributed to 
Jesus and dwell more on that greatest of all miracles, 
his life of absolute self-abnegation in an age of utter 
selfishness, his true place in the world would be 

The Religion of Humanity, Burbank predicted, will 
be a living challenge to do and to serve; man striving 
to help his fellow man, inspired by the thought of his 
greater welfare and happiness. Our world is under- 
going a gradual preparation for the universal reception 
of such a religion. Herein science and religion are 
working together. Science, by reason of her modern 
discoveries, has made of this world one large family. 
Nations are like next-door neighbors. Our doings are 
flashed in a few seconds to the ends of the earth. Time 
and space have been annihilated by miracles of sci- 
ence, greater far than the age of magic and ignorance 
could have invented. Human knowledge has advanced 
with marvelous strides. The hundreds of millions who 
have turned from all structural religion, as commonly 
presented to them, are ready to examine a religion 
that may suggest a reasonable belief and hope. The 
state of moral and financial bankruptcy in which the 
nations of Europe emerged from the World War 
emphasized the need of spiritual realities. There was 
an absolute reversal of truth. Peace gave way to the 
sword, good will to hatred, spiritual ideals to material 
passions. We were taught our lesson, and the Religion 
of Humanity will establish personal service for others 
on the foundation of love. It has been a long step 


between the "traces of altruism appearing even in 
animals of a single cell" to the present spirit of altru- 
ism as exhibited between man and man. 

Here, once more, science and religion are working 
in harmony. Modern miracles in the sphere of med- 
ical science, founded on reason, have surpassed the 
greatest miracles of theology, founded on fancy. Our 
century registers hundreds of such miracles, working 
for the good of humanity. Through their influence, 
suffering and pain are lessened, new hope is inspired 
and the measure and happiness of the human span of 
life increased. Think of the blessings, he said, be- 
stowed upon humanity by the life-work of scientists, 
such as our Dr. Crawford Long, discoverer of ether, 
Koch of Germany, Lister of England, and Pasteur of 
France. Men and women of the type of Pierre and 
Madame Curie, who, after a life-consecration, gave to 
the world their discoveries of radium and polonium, 
are worthy of saintship in the Religion of Humanity. 
Think of the number of scientists who have willingly 
yielded their lives in experimental tests of new dis- 
coveries for the conquest of disease! If this spirit of 
altruism filled the world men would no longer specu- 
late, but would know what is meant by "the new 
heaven and the new earth." Such a conception of 
service, applied with universal intentness, would turn 
this world from a desert into a garden. Nor must we 
forget, he cautioned, that we are only at the threshold 
of this new conception of service. It will not be long 
before the two great plagues of humanity, tuberculosis 
and cancer, with their excruciating suffering, are con- 
quered by the researches of science. Miracles per- 


formed by religionists of the first century are said to 
have restored individuals to health. Miracles per- 
formed by scientists of the twentieth century restore 
hundreds of thousands. Here may we find the source 
of that richer, fuller, more abundant life that is the 
essence of religion. 

But, in some respects, greater than all in its promise 
is that re-directed energy, in this life of service, now 
being felt in the world. We are in a position to ap- 
proach crime, poverty, ignorance and human misery 
from a new angle. Religions of the past were directly 
responsible for the false methods used in their day. 
Whereas, through ignorance the supreme effort then 
was to cure, from this day forward the supreme aim 
will be to prevent. Under the past-and-gone system, 
encouraged by theological falsehoods, the stages of a 
criminal's career .were marked by a dense stupidity 
almost impossible to conceive. He was born the "child 
of wrath" and neglected in his formative years of boy- 
hood, thereby becoming the logical vehicle of crime 
and the victim of the penitentiary. When he had 
reached his cell he was so far recognized as to be 
included in the prayers of "the faithful" who peti- 
tioned for his redemption. What can be expected 
when two of the great Christian denominations say 
that from birth he was "dead in sin, wholly defiled in 
all the faculties and parts of soul and body, and 
therefore bound over to the wrath of God"! The 
blight which a false theology thus casts upon life is 
destructive from the start. But such damnable errors 
are being crushed. 

Our New Religion, in his view, will enunciate the 


non-reality of evil in comparison with the infinite real- 
ity of good. It will behold in the child the human 
plant that may bud and blossom in a garden teeming 
with the sanctity of life. Here, once more, will be 
found the harmonious working of science and religion, 
both making, like good partners, for the same results. 

In Burbank's book, Training of the Human Plant, 
he said that all animal life is sensitive to environ- 
ment, but of all living things the child is the most 
sensitive. Surroundings act upon it as the outside 
world acts upon the plate of the camera. Every pos- 
sible influence to which it is subject will leave its 
impress upon the child, and in many cases the traits 
which it inherited will become to a certain extent even 
more pronounced than as given in heredity. The child 
is like a cut diamond, its many facets receiving sharp, 
clear impressions not possible to a pebble with this 
difference, however, that the change wrought in the 
child from the influences without becomes constitu- 
tional and ingrained. A child absorbs environment. 
It is the most susceptible thing in the world to influ- 
ence, and if that force be applied rightly and con- 
stantly when the child is in its most receptive condi- 
tion, the effect will be pronounced, immediate and 
permanent. As science and religion combine to bring 
the law of prevention into the life of the young human 
plant, the new methods of service will be unfolded. 

And love, he believed, will be the cornerstone of the 
temple. Burbank's whole philosophy of life was built 
on love as the foundation. It is the supreme force 
that puts man in tune with the Infinite, he said. No 
religion can survive without it. Creeds are cold, often 


senseless, confessions of faith. Forms and ceremonies 
are mere outer garments, too often falsely colored. 
Love is truly the greatest thing in the world. Nothing 
in all the universe can take the place of that passion 
of the soul, glowing with human affection. It springs 
from the "Kingdom within." It was love that made 
the Christ-character unique in history. He, of all 
great teachers of the world, was the living incarnation 
of the purest, sweetest, divinest love. Other great 
religious teachers, like Buddha, inspired their follow- 
ers with the imperishable force and beauty of this 
attribute. But the man Jesus, in his life of love, 
compassion, pity and sympathy, is the most human 
figure of the ages. Love is the essence of true religion. 
Science is infinitely accurate, but cold; even as 
philosophy is subtle and colorless. We find in religion 
the source and strength of the noblest sentiments, fired 
by love; and sentiment rules the world. 

That is the story told by those thousands of letters 
that littered the floor of Burbank's study. Take 
passages like these, culled from those letters, so spon- 
taneous and appealing: "Give me just one word of 
loving hope." "My soul thirsts for some living force 
that may lift me out of my trouble." "Is there a God 
worth while?" "If you can find time, do drop me a 
line and tell me the secret of your peace and happi- 
ness." "My four sons are a blessing to my mother- 
heart, but they laugh at the churches." "If God is 
love, why so much hatred in the ranks of the clergy." 
"Ten of us fellows have turned against this make- 
believe religion, forced on us at our college." "We cry 
for a reasonable faith." 


While men and women young and old were 
uttering this cry of human distress, yearning for a mes- 
sage of love, we find some one hundred and eighty 
religious sects warring over trifles and abusing one 
another in language of bitterness. Thoughtful minds 
refuse to accept a belief that lacks the spirit of love. 
The Religion of Humanity will have for its supreme 
test love to God, and love to fellow man. As J. Arthur 
Thomson has said : "This world is not the abode of the 
strong alone ; it is also the home of the loving." Love 
as the foundation of religion recalls the strong words 
of the apostle of love in the New Testament, where he 
submits the same test in the form of a question: "For 
he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, 
how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 

So far we have given Burbank's views on the great 
constructive forces on which the New Religion will be 
built. What will be its attitude toward the many 
superstitions that have dominated structural religion? 
In his "Challenge to Thought," Burbank took a bold 
stand in relation to the ancient belief in evil spirits, 
saying: "I nominated myself as an 'infidel' as a 
challenge to thought for those who are asleep. The 
word is harmless if properly used. Its stigma has 
been heaped upon it by unthinking people who asso- 
ciate it with the bogie devil and his malicious works. 
The devil has never concerned me, as I have always 
used my own conscience, not the dictum of any cult." 
That story of the devil and his spiritual cohorts has 
long been relegated to the place in history allotted to 
^Esop's fables. Structural religion has used Satan and 
his host, like the banshees of Celtic creation, as so 


many instruments of mental torture. However, it 
serves a useful purpose in revealing the insidious ways 
in which gross superstitions retain their foothold. 
Satan is the bugaboo of a false dogmatism long since 
exploded, but retained in religious systems as an in- 
strument of fear. Jewish religious thought, in its 
primitive phase, influenced by the Persian, gave it a 
place in the dualistic system, representing the King- 
dom of God in antagonism with the kingdom of the 
devil. Upon this mythical misconception the theory 
of redemption was constructed. No man of average 
intelligence in this age of enlightenment is deluded by 
such absurd myths. Satan and his host of evil spirits 
are rejected by modern Judaism as played-out actors 
in life's drama. Modernists of the Christian faith are 
no less positive in their attitude. 

The insistence on the part of the literalists in Bible 
exposition upon the existence of a personal devil has 
done much to lead thoughtful people to turn a deaf 
ear to the appeals of structural religion. The Bible, 
he was convinced, must be read, as we read all other 
books, in the light of our judgment and reason. In 
this way only may we account for the stories of Satan 
and his host of evil spirits. The writers of the four 
Gospels have portrayed their Master in the accepted 
superstitions of their day. Thus may we account for 
the story of the "demoniac possessions," the tempta- 
tion by the devil in the wilderness, the story of the 
Gadarene swine and numerous other myths evolved 
from beliefs in magic and witchcraft. When we 
remember that in the seventeenth century "the 
majority of educated men still believed in witch- 


craft," as Mr. Buckle states, and that at the close of 
that century "it flourished with fearful vigor in Massa- 
chusetts," as affirmed by Lecky, the historian, we may 
well understand that ignorance and superstition 
abounded in the beginning of the Christian era. In 
the light of science, even as we have rejected the 
absurd belief in witchcraft, we are forced to reject 
those stories as related in the New Testament. If 
Jesus or any other of the world's older religious teach- 
ers lived in our day, Satan could have no place in their 

There are millions of souls in our land, outside the 
pale of any church, who cannot be persuaded to wor- 
ship a God whose attributes of infinite love and mercy 
are proclaimed in the same breath with the doctrine 
of eternal torment. Since the days of Jonathan 
Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, who preached a brim- 
stone hell of eternal punishment, a great change has 
been in process in the attitude of the churches. That 
change has found one of its ablest champions in the 
late Dean Farrar, of London, in his writings on 
"Eternal Hope." In Burbank's address in San 
Francisco, his language left no doubt as to his personal 
belief. Here are his words: "The idea that a good 
God would send people to a burning hell is utterly 
damnable to me. The ravings of insanity! Supersti- 
tion gone to seed! I don't want to have anything to 
do with such a God." Structural religion has been 
trying to explain this accursed superstition and make 
it harmonize with a God of love. Its direct conse- 
quences, altogether apart from the religious life, have 
been disastrous. In the words of Lecky, he believed 


that "The doctrine of a material hell in its effect was 
to chill and deaden the sympathies, predispose men 
to inflict suffering, and to retard the march of civiliza- 
tion." How can the leaders of a religion, he asked, 
denounce wars on the ground of cruelty when the faith 
they proclaim assigns to eternal perdition innocent 
children conceived and born in sin, because the sprink- 
ling of water on their persons has been neglected? 
How could such a God reign and be at home in heaven, 
conscious of the billions of souls crying in vain for a 
drop of water to relieve their terrible tortures? No! 
the penalty for wrong-doing is now and within us. 
The Religion of Humanity will proclaim a hell here 
and now, "not in future flames of sulphur in some 
far-off prison." This position is endorsed by the mod- 
ernist leaders of institutional Christianity. On the 
other hand, those who are ardent believers in a ma- 
terial hell refer to the teachings of Jesus as the source 
of their conviction. 

The opposite position, however, is the only logical 
conclusion to draw from the teachings of Jesus, which, 
rightfully treated, Burbank thought, admit only of a 
spiritual interpretation. It was this same material 
conception that led to his rejection and crucifixion. It 
is the material interpretation that crucifies him afresh. 
No great teacher of a world religion laid greater stress 
on the present, and less stress on the future life. His 
life and teaching enriched the idea of the abundant 
life, as lived here and now. Poets like Milton and 
Dante have created by their imagination a heaven and 
a hell, in relation to which Jesus was absolutely silent. 
His message emphasized God's love, expressed in terms 


of truth. Institutional Christianity, as the advocate 
of eternal torment, magnifies God's justice, in terms 
of falsehood. No reasonable mind would care to enter 
into communion with a Being who condemned the 
mass of mankind to endless perdition and pain. What- 
ever power an institutional system may have attained 
by insisting on such a state, and by claiming the power 
of deliverance therefrom, has been won at an awful 
cost. Millions of people agree that it belongs to the 
ravings of insanity. 

The philosophy of life as interpreted by Jesus, 
Burbank proclaimed, is utterly opposed to this hor- 
rible doctrine. Reading the story of his ministry, no 
reasonable mind can accept any saying, alleged to 
have been uttered by him, that is not in perfect 
harmony with the weight of his message in reveal- 
ing the infinite love and compassion of Almighty 

Some of his correspondents were interested to learn 
what stand the Religion of Humanity will take in rela- 
tion to the doctrine of expiatory sacrifice. Burbank's 
answer was that no such doctrine belongs to a religion 
that will proclaim a God of infinite love. It is un- 
worthy our idea of the Creative Being, revealed 
through our savior, science. In all primitive religions 
craven fear was the inspiring spirit of sacrificial acts, 
either propitiatory or expiatory. The lower the social 
caste, the more horrible was the nature of the sacrifice. 
It passed from older forms into the Hebrew concep- 
tion of religion. This false and unworthy conception 
has maintained a foothold in many forms of modern 
structural Christianity. God is looked upon as a stern 


judge, demanding the payment of penalty for sin 
committed or yet to be committed. This payment is 
made by faith in the vicarious shedding of blood, which 
remits the penalty and stays the avenging hand. The 
ransomed sinner suddenly experiences a conversion, 
and is given the assurance of a future paradise, as he 
turns from his satiated sensuality or depleted selfish 
living. Such a doctrine is an appeal to the individual, 
based on his personal safety or welfare. It is sub- 
versive of the whole idea of character and rectitude, 
rationally considered. 

The Religion of Humanity, he believed, will reject 
such a scheme of salvation and substitute therefor a 
salvation based on self-reformation and self-sacrifice 
in the beauty and nobleness of service to fellow man. 
A God of infinite love calls for no higher atonement 
than that of a life attuned to Him by love and personal 
devotion. Thousands of letters received from all parts 
of the world in response to his "Challenge to Thought" 
were heartily in accord with this rational interpreta- 
tion of religious belief. 

On the subject of belief in miracles as recorded, for 
example, in the New Testament, Burbank's idea was 
that faith in miracles found a congenial soil in the 
gross superstitions of an age in which magic and witch- 
craft, diabolical possessions and diabolical diseases 
were universally accepted as fact. In this age of ad- 
vanced science, such claims form one of the great 
stumbling blocks to the reasonable acceptance of the 
Christian faith. They belonged to an age that referred 
every problem to the realm of the supernatural. We 
live in an age in which the natural is dominant. The 


historian, William Lecky, in his Rationalism in Europe, 
states what he had in mind, he said, with remarkable 
accuracy. Thus he writes: 

When it began, Christianity was regarded as a 
system entirely beyond the range and scope of 
human reason : it was impious to question ; it was 
impious to examine; it was impious to discrim- 
inate. On the other hand, it was visibly instinct 
with the supernatural. Miracles of every order 
and degree of magnitude were flashing forth in- 
cessantly from all its parts. They excited no 
scepticism and no surprise. The miraculous ele- 
ment pervaded all literature, explained all diffi- 
culties, consecrated all doctrines. Every unusual 
phenomenon was immediately referred to a super- 
natural agency, not because there was a passion 
for the improbable, but because such an explana- 
tion seemed far more simple and easy of belief 
than the obscure theories of science. In the pres- 
ent day Christianity is regarded as a system which 
courts the strictest investigation, and which, 
among many other functions, was designed to 
vivify and stimulate all the energies of man. The 
idea of the miraculous, which a superficial ob- 
server might have deemed its most prominent 
characteristic, has been driven from almost all 
its entrenchments, and now quivers faintly and 
feebly through the mists of eighteen hundred 

In this age of miracles performed by science in 
conformity with the laws of Nature, there is no room 


for credence in the story of alleged miracles per- 
formed by magic in an age of dark superstition. 

The Religion of Humanity will be a natural religion. 
It will be a positive, spiritual power to humanity. It 
will draw within its fold vast numbers of intelligent 
minds that have been forced to reject the teachings, 
steeped in superstition, of all structural religion. It 
will be a unifying force. The weakness of existing 
systems of institutional Christianity lies in the un- 
happy divisions, the bitter dissensions that stultify 
and destroy. 

The New Religion will offer a common ground for 
all earnest seekers after truth who demand a reason- 
able interpretation of its mission and office, based on 
the discoveries of science. There will be a new sense 
of personal freedom, begotten of accepted truth, un- 
tainted by an arrogant dogmatism. It will be hailed 
with joy by the millions of young minds who are to-day 
uninfluenced by institutional religion. 

For fifty years and over this was the foundation 
of Burbank's philosophy of life. During all those 
years, his faith in the infinite, everlasting, almighty 
God never failed him. He was his closest friend in 
the loneliness of his life-work, amid the silence of 
Nature. Often must he have worked amongst his 
plants till darkness intervened, knowing something of 
the feelings of the astronomer who gave expression to 
his experience in the words: "In the deep and silent 
night everything moves driven by the breath of God." 
The Religion of Humanity will draw mankind into the 
beauty and conscious strength of His infinite presence. 


In no phase of his religious belief is Luther Burbank 
less understood and more inaccurately reported than 
that pertaining to the subject of personal immortality. 
His persistent silence in the midst of the angry con- 
troversy resulting from his public "Challenge to 
Thought" exaggerated the misunderstanding. It re- 
vealed a striking contrast between the man and his 
critics. While Luther Burbank was laying stress on 
the power of religious belief in molding human con- 
duct and developing the more abundant life here and 
now, his critics were chiefly concerned in demanding 
from him a statement that would throw light on his 
personal attitude toward belief in a future state. It 
so happened about that time that a statement by 
Henry Ford on the doctrine of reincarnation was pub- 
lished by the daily papers, and widely exploited from 
the pulpits of the land. A reporter, whose spirit of 
enterprise exceeded his religious knowledge or accu- 
racy of expression, was responsible for an article in 
which Burbank was made the victim of gross mis- 
quotation relative to that doctrine. We were constant 
companions in those days, and I am in a position to 
affirm that Burbank had strictly adhered to the un- 
broken silence that marked his attitude throughout. 
Now this negative position on his part was a stand 
true to type. His Scotch-English ancestry, accentu- 



ated by his New England birth and training, helps to 
explain the habitual reserve that formed a striking 
trait in his character. He had to be driven into the 
open. Often he asserted, in my presence, that his 
right to his personal belief was sacred, and not sub- 
ject to the blatant challenge of fiery and obtrusive 
religionists. When they publicly interpreted his 
silence as conclusive evidence of his "atheistic ten- 
dencies," he realized the nature of the influences that 
were arrayed against him. As a matter of fact, 
Burbank seldom discussed the subject, and then only 
in the presence of his closest friends. Thus we find, in 
his "Challenge to Thought," that the matter of immor- 
tality is only briefly referred to in the form of a quo- 
tation from the pen of Olive Schreiner. 

This silence on the part of Burbank had a deeper 
source. He did not hesitate to affirm that the subject 
of immortality occupied a secondary place in his 
religious beliefs. My first prolonged conversation with 
him on that subject took place during a trip in 1913 
through the Northwest and British Columbia, when 
we were close companions. He was then in his sixty- 
fourth year, in splendid physical and mental form, and 
refreshingly wholesome in his outlook upon life. He 
was delightfully frank with me, expressing his opin- 
ions and convictions with freedom, as he discussed 
the many honest doubts that confronted him in striv- 
ing to answer that vital question, as old as the book 
of Job: "If a man die, shall he live again?" 

In February and March, 1926, we went over prac- 
tically the same ground again, and I realized that my 


companion of 1913 was passing through the same expe- 
riences, except that a greater strength of conviction 
and warmth of feeling had developed during the in- 
terval of thirteen years. 

One day I recall having read quite slowly to him a 
striking passage from the "Conclusions" by William 
James in his Varieties of Religious Experience, as 

Religion, in fact, for the great majority of our 
race means Immortality, and nothing else. God 
is the producer of Immortality; and whoever has 
doubts of Immortality is written down as an 
atheist without farther trial. I have said noth- 
ing in my lectures [the Gifford Lectures] about 
Immortality or the beliefs therein, for to me it 
seems a secondary point. If our ideas are only 
cared for in "Eternity," I do not see why we 
might not be willing to resign their care to other 
hands than ours. 

The moment I had finished reading, Burbank spoke 
with a force of conviction that left a deep impression 
in my life, because he was so unlike the great mass of 
believers with whom I came in contact in the course 
of my ministry. He said: "Yes, my dear friend, Pro- 
fessor James has shown remarkable discernment in his 
position relative to personal immortality, and it is in 
perfect harmony with both fact and reason. The 
true goal is missed by the multitude of religionists, 
because of the abnormal degree of their self-interest. 
They seem to be blind or indifferent to the fact that 


our chief concern is life precious life here and now. 
This life is the great adventure. It is the immortal 
present. To love, even as God would have us love; 
to be true, for truth's sake; to do, for humanity's sake; 
to suffer, for duty's sake; to live in the ever-conscious 
sanctity of life, to plunge into its floodtide, inspired 
and fortified by those ideals, and take the chance 
boldly and without concern as to the realities of a 
future heaven or a future hell that's LIVING! What 
shall a man give in exchange for such a life!" 

I will venture to amrm that no man ever uttered a 
belief gave expression to an ideal with a heart and 
soul more powerfully attuned to the Infinite Spirit 
than did Luther Burbank that day. He unconsciously 
laid bare the secret springs of his life and daily con- 

Only in the light of the foregoing facts may we 
hope adequately to appreciate Burbank's intimate 
sentiments on the subject of immortality that follow. 
They open out a vision of universal interest. Nor 
must it be forgotten that they reveal in a very vital 
sense the basic qualities of the man. Of all men whose 
religious beliefs have come under my personal study 
during long years of ministry, no man appealed to 
me whose attitude toward the subject of personal im- 
mortality was marked by a greater desire to eliminate 
all consideration of self-interest. 

With a deep sense of responsibility as his chosen 
interpreter with the supreme desire to pursue his 
path of thought with unerring accuracy, I will now 
attempt to give an insight into his sentiments on 



Perhaps no man of modern thought has given the 
world such a vivid picture of the conflicting doubts and 
yearnings of the soul as the mind dwelt upon death, 
and the probabilities of existence after death, as did 
Thomas Carlyle. One day, moved by the desire to lead 
up to a discussion on the subject of the future life, I 
said to Burbank: "Let me read to you a remarkable 
record taken from the Journal of Thomas Carlyle, 
written by him at his home, 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 
London, and dated October 14, 1869" : 

*Fhree nights ago, stepping out after midnight, 
with my final pipe, and looking up into the stars 
which were clear and numerous, it struck me with 
a strange new kind of feeling, "Hah, in a little 
while I shall have seen you also for the last time. 
God Almighty's own Theatre of Immensity, the 
Infinite made palpable and visible to me; that also 
will be closed, flung-to in my face, and I shall 
never behold that either any more. And I knew 
so little of it: real as was my effort and desire to 
know!" The thought of this eternal deprivation 
(even of this, tho' this is such a nothing in com- 
parison!) was sad and painful to me: and then 
a second feeling rose on me, "What is Omnipo- 
tence, that has developed in me these pieties, 
these reverences, and infinite affections, should 
actually have said, 'Yes, poor mortals, such of you 
as have gone so far, shall be permitted to go 
farther; hope, despair not.' " 


This dramatic soliloquy of Carlyle, written in his 
seventy-fourth year, as he struggles with the problem 
of life after death, appeals to me, I added, as an inci- 
dent of the deepest significance. He, who denned life 
as a "gleam between two eternities," finds himself 
overcome by two conflicting feelings as he peers into 
the future, mastered by the passions both of despair 
and of hope. "Does not his yearning for the continu- 
ance of those nobler qualities of the soul awaken a deep 
sympathy within you?" I asked. 

He replied that Carlyle breathed the spirit of a 
philosopher as he stood, face to face, before the great- 
est of all mysteries. He was prepared to go further, 
and ground his belief on something stronger than senti- 
ment. He thought Emerson was right when he said: 

Here is this wonderful thought [of immor- 
tality]. But whence came it? Who put it in the 
mind? It was not I, it was not you; it is ele- 
mental belongs to thought and virtue, and when- 
ever we have either, we see the beams of this 
light. When the Master of the universe has 
points to carry in his government, he impresses 
his will in the structure of minds. . . . Wherever 
man ripens, this audacious belief appears. . . . 
As soon as thought is exercised, this belief is in- 
evitable; as soon as virtue glows, this belief con- 
firms itself. It is a kind of summary or comple- 
tion of man. . . . The doctrine is not sentimental, 
but is grounded in the necessities and forces we 

Such a belief is a supreme act based on the reason- 


ableness of God's work, he said. No philosophy, how- 
ever keen; no science, however accurate, can solve a 
problem infinitely beyond human experience. All- 
powerful in the demonstration of facts, science is silent 
as man seeks from such a source an answer to the 
question of possible life beyond the grave. We need a 
surer anchorage than feeling. There was a time in his 
life when he felt the presence of departed friends and 
heard their voices speaking to him out of the other 
world. But that day passed out of his life like a spent 
wave on the strand. 

If the hope of immortality were blotted from the 
lives of our fellow men, the consciousness of the eternal 
blank that would ensue would be intolerable. No man 
of his day in Europe was a more merciless critic of 
structural religion than the French rationalist, Ernest 
Renan. Strong are his words on the psychological 
effect upon the world of a belief in an after life: 

The day in which the belief in an after life shall 
vanish from the earth will witness a terrific moral 
and spiritual decadence. Some of us, perhaps, 
might do without it, provided only that others 
held it fast. But there is no lever capable of rais- 
ing an entire people if once they have lost their 
faith in the immortality of the soul. 

Renan, in his judgment, was absolutely justified in 
making that statement. And this fact makes it all 
the more important to draw up such a conception of 
the after life as accords with reason. No religion could 
hope to win the world that eliminated the doctrine of 
immortality from its teaching. It will find its true 


place in the Religion of Humanity. But it will differ 
in its formulation from the dogmatic superstitions of 
a theological system that have made a travesty of 
heaven and an inhuman tragedy of hell. It is not so 
much a question of continued existence as of the nature 
of that existence. The grotesque conceptions of life 
after death so jealously cultivated by the leaders of 
structural Christianity are responsible for much of the 
present indifference of the great mass of the people 
toward the subject of personal immortality. 

Referring to the nature of existence after death, the 
gradual evolution of the belief in life after death from 
the infancy of religions, he said, is clearly outlined in 
the history of the Israelites. Up to the period of the 
Babylonian captivity it is evident that the hereafter 
had no place in their religious beliefs. During the 
period of their captivity, however, in which for over 
two centuries they were in close contact with the Per- 
sian religion, they took over from that system belief in 
one God, a heaven and a hell, the resurrection from the 
dead and the final day of judgment. Then came the 
crowning stage as contained in the tenets of the Chris- 
tian faith. It is a history throughout of faith, and 
faith alone, placed upon alleged fact, beyond the range 
of human experience. 

I submitted to Burbank my personal belief that 
the integrity of the Christian religion is based on 
the alleged fact of the resurrection of Jesus from 
the dead. Thus Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, 
took the bold stand: "If Christ be not risen, then 
is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; 


because we have testified of God that He raised up 
Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the 
dead rise not." We know there are millions of men 
and women in the world to-day living lives of conse- 
crated service, with love toward God and their fellows, 
to whom that belief of Paul is the supreme comfort 
the mainstay of human life and purpose. And those 
millions are but a small fraction of the countless mil- 
lions in the procession of the centuries who have lived 
and died with supreme faith in the gospel of the 
resurrection. Whatever indifference may have gripped 
the world in relation to that belief, men and women 
cling to it when they face the great adventure. No 
man is so brave that the message of the resurrection 
does not fail to make him a little braver. This was 
my experience as I ministered to our dying comrades 
on French soil in the World War. Who can calculate 
the stronger faith and calmer assurance that sustained 
the hearts of those millions who heard the message of 
their Master: "I am the resurrection, and the life: 
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet 
shall he live; And whosoever liveth and believeth in 
me shall never die" ! 

Burbank replied that this Christian conception of 
immortality has put hope and joy in the hearts of 
millions through the centuries, and therein we rejoice. 
It is one of the many gates, wide open, through which 
the souls of men pass into the life immortal. The 
omnipresent God, Infinite Spirit behind man's destiny, 
has many avenues of approach as hundreds of millions 
seek the life after death. And it is here that the 
Religion of Humanity will be a living force in the 


beliefs of men. It will teach the reality of spiritual 
being and deny the doctrine of a bodily resurrection. 
It will proclaim the truth of life after death, quite in- 
dependent of the story of the risen Jesus. Apart alto- 
gether from revelation, belief in immortality will be 
taught as a sequence of evolution. Burbank shared 
with Charles Darwin his conception of that life when he 
said: "Believing as I do that man in the distant future 
will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it 
is an intolerable thought that he and other sentient 
beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such 
a long-continued slow process." And he believed that 
such a perfected creature will belong to the realm of 
the spiritual. The Religion of Humanity will question 
the position taken by Paul and others that, "since by 
man came death, by man came also the resurrection of 
the dead." There's no reason for bringing Adam into 
the question of the immortal. To him, the life of Jesus 
in his earthly ministry means more to the world than 
the story of his resurrected life. No man ever lived 
who taught the empire of the spiritual with such 
supernal force, and demonstrated the truth that man 
is in eternity, traveling across the face of time, with 
more conclusiveness. He believed in, and lived by, 
the reality of the "Eternal Now." The Religion of 
Humanity will take from the page of revelation only 
such statements on the doctrine of immortality as may 
harmonize with modem scholarship and the truth of 
science. "Out of death comes the view of the life 
beyond the grave. . . . Though death be repugnant 
to the flesh, just where the Spirit is given, to die is 
gain. . . . What a wonderful transition it is!" With 


this sentiment, thus expressed by that great scientist, 
Michael Faraday, he was in perfect accord. 


In the long procession of distinguished scientists and 
scholars from all parts of the world who traveled the 
well-worn path to the door of Luther Burbank's cot- 
tage were many Hindu leaders and disciples of the 
Vedanta philosophy of India. So close was the bond 
between their philosophy of life and that of Burbank 
that a hospitable welcome always awaited them. His 
nature quickly responded to their spiritual beliefs, 
mystical conceptions and the independence that 
marked their patient methods of research. He felt 
at home with men in whom serenity of spirit and poise 
of character were dominant traits. More than one 
prominent Swami of Vedanta enjoyed the confidence 
of his friendship, and frequent were the discussions 
in which the doctrines of reincarnation and trans- 
migration were treated from every angle. It may 
safely be affirmed that the inspiring motive of his 
desire to master the Vedantic theory of reincarnation 
had no connection with a yearning after personal im- 
mortality. His interest in this phase of religion, as 
in the case of all other religious beliefs, was pursued 
in a spirit in which the element of self was entirely 
eliminated. His chief concern was to obtain, if pos- 
sible, a reasonable answer to two questions which were 
thrust in the foreground of his inquiry. He was deeply 
interested in the claim that reincarnation was based on 
evolution, and in the sequel to that claim that rein- 
carnation was founded on the law of cause and effect. 


This prologue will help to clear the way for an intelli- 
gent analysis of the statements that follow. 

Once I called Burbank's attention to the fact that 
his name had recently been linked with that of 
Henry Ford in a published statement in which their 
beliefs in the doctrine of reincarnation had been com- 
pared. There were such radical differences between 
the beliefs expressed in the reported interview with 
him and the opinions so often advanced by him in my 
presence that I was convinced he had been altogether 
misinterpreted. He told me that the story of that 
alleged interview with him, like so many others, had 
been evolved from the riotous imagination of a young 
reporter. If the statement of Mr. Ford's belief in the 
doctrine of reincarnation was as inaccurate as that im- 
puted to him a comparison is impossible. But why 
compare? Henry Ford had long been his personal 
friend, and he held in great esteem the stability and 
sincerity of his character. For his genius, as one of 
the world's greatest organizers, he had the most pro- 
found respect. If it happened that he had been cor- 
rectly reported, no man can find fault with him because 
he expressed his personal belief in the doctrine of 
reincarnation. It is at once his right and his privi- 
lege. His own hesitation in affirming a belief in the 
preexistence of the soul or in personal immortality 
was the logical outcome of a life trained to slow meth- 
ods in the field of science. If his life-work had placed 
restraint upon his judgment in things mortal, how 
much more in things immortal! We must never lose 
sight of the distinction between opinion and convic- 
tion, between the yearning and the belief of the soul. 


They play upon our lives, even the strongest of us, as 
the clouds and sunshine play upon fields of corn. 
Often had he seen life portrayed, he professed to me, 
as did Walt Whitman in his Leaves of Grass, when 
he said: 

As to you, Life, I reckon you are the leavings of many 

deaths ; 
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before. 

Who has not felt, he asked, like Emerson when he 
said: "We wake and find ourselves on a stair. There 
are stairs below us which we seem to have ascended; 
there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward 
and out of sight"? Nor does one of the greatest of 
our scientists hesitate to express a favorable opinion 
on the tenableness of the theory of reincarnation, for 
it was Darwin himself who said: "None but hasty 
thinkers will reject it on the ground of inherent absurd- 
ity. Like the doctrine of evolution itself, that of 
transmigration has its roots in the world of reality." 
If he were called upon to choose between the theory 
of a miraculous resurrection, as contained in the gospel 
story, and the doctrine of reincarnation, which has its 
roots in the ages long before the founding of Chris- 
tianity, as a scientist his choice would rest in a doc- 
trine that included the pre-existence of the soul. He 
denied the proposition subscribed to by some theo- 
logians "that the spiritual nature has been superadded 
to the animal nature by some extracosmic spiritual 
agency." His own position would be based on the 
conclusion of that eminent English scientist, J. Arthur 
Thomson, even though he might find that it put him 


at variance with the evolutionists: "The world is one, 
not twofold, the spiritual influx is the primal reality, 
and there is nothing in the end which was not also in 
the beginning." But his choice rested not between the 
theory of a miraculous resurrection and the doctrine of 
reincarnation. His belief in immortality had no place 
for the continued life of the individual, for personality 
in his view is absorbed in the 


He believed that the soul is a part of God and that, 
consciously or unconsciously, it will endure as long as 
God lasts. In closing his "Challenge to Thought" he 
gave expression to his faith in the noble language of 
Olive Schreiner: . 

For the little soul that cries aloud for con- 
tinued personal existence for itself and its beloved, 
there is no help. For the soul which knows itself 
no more as a unit, but as a part of the Universal 
Unity of which the beloved also is a part, which 
feels within itself the throb of the Universal Life 
for that soul there is no death. 

Such an inspiring sentiment, he added, is worthy of 
being carved in bold letters over the door of every 
temple in which the Religion of Humanity is taught to 
seekers after truth. 

And its meaning has been simplified in poetic form, 
for George Eliot has most beautifully expressed the 
idea of immortality which consists in a growing, 
spreading, deepening love of humankind. An immor- 
tality not of the individual, not of the person, but of 


the quality; an immortality of being. Our lives are 
not separate lives, but organic lives. Society is one; 
the race is one; we inherit all that has gone before; 
we add our contribution to all that is passing and 
comes after; every deed of ours mingles with the great 
current of human life; every thought, every purpose 
adds its part in making the future what it is to be. 
So we live on in the life of the world we inhabit. 

He believed that this is the faith of many earnest 
souls who live what seem to others dreary and toil- 
some lives, but are cheered by the hope that what they 
do with all their might, and as well as they can, is 
their honest contribution to the future and their im- 
mortal career. 

Such faith is a rebuke to that sordid craving for an 
immortality of gratification of individual desires and 
purely selfish aims. 

Thus, in that noble utterance of George Eliot, did 
he find the deepest yearning of his soul expressed: 

Oh may I join the choir invisible 
Of those immortal dead who live again 
In minds made better by their presence: live 
In pulses stirred to generosity, 
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn 
For miserable aims that end with self, 
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars, 
And with their mild persistence urge man's search to vaster 

So to live is heaven: 
To make undying music in the world, 
Breathing a beauteous order that controls 
With growing sway the growing life of man. 
So we inherit that sweet purity 


For which we struggled, failed, and agonized 
With widening retrospect that bred despair. 

Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued, 
A vicious parent shaming still its child 
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved; 
Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies, 
Die in the large and charitable air. 

And all the rarer, better, truer self, 
That sobbed religiously in yearning song, 
That watched to ease the burden of the world, 
Laboriously tracing what must be, 
And what may yet be better saw within 
A worthier image for the sanctuary, 
And shaped it forth before the multitude 
Divinely human, raising worship so 
To higher reverence more mixed with love 
That better self shall live till human time 
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky 
Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb 
Unread for ever., 

This is life to come, 

Which martyred men have made more glorious 

For us who strive to follow. May I reach 

That purest heaven, be to other souls 

The cup of strength in some great agony, 

Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love, 

Beget the smiles that have no cruelty 

Be the sweet presence of a good diffused, 

And in diffusion ever more intense. 

So shall I join the choir invisible 

Whose music is the gladness of the world. 


Little did I dream on that day when our final con- 
versation took place that the spirit of my beloved 
friend Luther Burbank was so soon to "join the choir 
invisible." Our theme was "immortality," and the 
name of George Eliot, as we analyzed her faith and 
quest of the unseen, was frequently on our lips. Be- 
tween those two earnest seekers after truth there was 

a likeness in harmony of thought and honesty of pur- 
pose that profoundly impressed me. Her faith found 
its absolute response in him, having its source in what 
both loved to call the "Kingdom within." Love and 
fruitage formed the final test, and the supreme desire 
was to lose one's soul in the good of others. He could 
well say with her: 

So to live is heaven: 
To make undying music in the world, 
Breathing a beauteous order that controls 
With growing sway the growing life of man. 

For some days before he was stricken there were 
signs of a growing weariness a desire for rest unusual 
to him. It was most apparent after he had made him- 
self familiar with the great mass of letters received by 
him from all parts of the world. For a time he had 
been buoyed up by the excitement, but now a reaction 
had set in, indicating extreme exhaustion. The fact 
was, his sensitive soul received great shocks in this 



course of studying with the utmost care letters con- 
ceived in narrow bigotry or rife with human distress. 
The silent messenger was even then on his way from 
the other shore to bear his spirit thence. 

Shortly before the dawn of Sunday morn, April 11, 
his spirit passed on, and for him the riddle of the uni- 
verse was solved. 

Luther Burbank seemed to have reached the acme of 
his powers in the months that immediately preceded 
the unfortunate exploitation of his religious beliefs. 
In the late autumn of 1925 we were together when a 
letter arrived from Mr. Edison, full of exultant joy in 
his conscious capacity for almost unlimited work. It 
seemed to delight Luther Burbank to the soul, and he 
read it aloud with an expression of glee. That after- 
noon he rolled over on his lawn, rising to his feet with 
lightning speed, as if to demonstrate his own agility 
as well as exuberance. Few men of his years could 
then have matched his physical, mental and spiritual 
powers. His untiring energy for one rather frail of 
body was remarkable. Life appealed to him as one 
long glorious Spring. His mind was planning to 
mature his greatest creations in plant life in the period 
that would mark the completion of his four score 
years. His face was radiant with the joy that over- 
flowed his spiritual being during our many talks to- 
gether those days on the religious life. It seemed to 
me as if his spirit echoed the voice of old: "If I take 
the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost 
parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and 
thy right hand hold me." 

If I were asked to name his one outstanding qual- 


ity, in my judgment, as the result of long and deep 
friendship, I should answer that it revealed itself in his 
one supreme desire to preserve the integrity both of 
mind and conscience. He was the honestest thinker 
with whom I ever rubbed minds. His habit of accu- 
rate thought in the realm of science was brought into 
active play in the realm of spirit. This explains his 
matter-of-fact revolt against superstitious dogmatism, 
his absolute indifference to popular opinion, his eager- 
ness to welcome newly discovered truth even at the 
cost of cherished beliefs. 

If I were asked to name a quality that was a close 
second I should answer his emotional health, strong 
and abiding. That quality, which enabled him to 
triumph over fatigue and depression, softened his 
judgments and imparted a beautiful tenderness to his 
spirit that left its mark in kind upon all who came 
within the radius of his personality. He had a heart 
that went out in great love to all humanity. This 
permanent inward glow helps to account for that 
almost hypnotic influence felt in his presence by those 
who were honored with his friendship. These qualities 
of mind and heart in harmonious combination form the 
cornerstone of the structure of his character and be- 

Luther Burbank perceived in all men the unborn 
possibilities of the good life, even though surface indi- 
cations reported them to be as hard as flint or as unre- 
sponsive as stone. So great was his spirit of compas- 
sion that, in the days of his greatest strength, many a 
soul sought his help, and moral and physical wrecks 
regained their grip through his healing power. 


To him life the more abundant life was ever 
supreme. He sought that life by fifty years of patient 
care for the plant of the field and the human plant 
that he called himself and felt to be molded by the 
same almighty Force. It can be readily understood 
that a man of such mold of mind and heart fretted at 
doctrinal definitions. Theological terms encasing dead 
beliefs suggested to his mind the decayed wrappings 
that bind the bodies of Egyptian mummies. Yet there 
was a sweet reasonableness about his attitude. He was 
peculiarly free from the too frequent error of mod- 
ernists who, in assailing the dogmatism of funda- 
mentalists, are not one whit less dogmatic themselves. 
"What is there to be said on the other side?" was a 
favorite expression of his, indicating an open mind. 

Luther Burbank was at heart a poet, one of Nature's 
best, for his soul was steeped in the beautiful even 
though he lacked facility in the power of poetic ex- 
pression. He was an idealist, with a warmth of pas- 
sion for his fellow man that flowered in acts of love 
and fellowship. It is told of St. Francis of Assisi by 
his biographer, Ozanam, that 

He loved rocks and forests and harvests, the 
beauty of the fields, the freshness of fountains, the 
verdant gardens, the earth, the fire, the sea and 
winds and spoke to them as living creatures, ex- 
horting them to remain pure, and to honor and 
serve God. The birds and beasts and flowers he 
spoke of as his brethren and sisters and many 
sweet stories are told of his compassion to the 
sufferings of animals how hunted creatures, the 


pheasants and the hares, ran to him for protection, 
and hid themselves in the folds of his habit. 

How near unto this universal love of nature, of 
animal life, of mankind was the saintly Luther Bur- 
bank. His were like simple affections, broad and deep 
as the universe. In the circle of his closest friends 
where he cast off all reserve, his sayings had all the 
charm of the spontaneous, in motion, warmth and 
color. He was most at home in his garden, drinking 
in the fragrance of dahlias and chrysanthemums, and 
skipping with joyousness of being like a youth through 
its narrow trails. 

His face was a benediction. There was a delicacy 
to his features of unusual charm, and his constant 
smile fascinated all who came into his presence. It 
was radiant with the glow of the qualities of love, 
kindness, gentleness and repose. Yet there was an 
added something to his expression suggesting great 
force of character a quickness of decision and action 
that belong to greatness. 

Between his own simple life and the sweet, trustful 
intuitive life that children lead there was a mutual 
bond, surpassing beautiful. It was all everything 
taken for granted between them. In his walks, little 
children would rush toward him with outstretched 
arms, and pour out the secrets and affections of their 
hearts, happy and confident in his trustful love. 

Religion was the great reality of his being. There 
did he find the substance, not only of things hoped for, 
but of things that make beautiful the life that now is. 
Like many other strong men in the world of science, 


he shrank from the play of words to demonstrate 
God, His nature and His attributes as vain. Religion 
was not that at all, but life finite seeking from life 
infinite its greatest treasures. 

His one dream was of a Religion of Humanity that 
would appeal to the mass of mankind. A religion, 
that is, in which religious truth in the large would be 
disentangled from the meshes of superstition and a 
unity of belief made possible. 

And his supreme aim was to express that religion 
himself in terms of life. His interests centered in life, 
the larger, richer life. It seems to me the interpreta- 
tion of Professor Leuba might be accepted as his con- 
ception of that life, when he stated: 

God is not known, He is understood, He is used. 
If He proves himself useful the religious con- 
sciousness asks for no more than that. Does God 
really exist? How does he exist? What is he? 
are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but 
life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying 
life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. 
The love of life, at any and every level of develop- 
ment, is the religious impulse. 

Speaking out of an experience of more than forty 
years in the active ministry, and of a wide and intimate 
acquaintance with men outside of these professional 
contacts, Luther Burbank impressed me as the purest, 
gentlest, kindest, most religious soul that ever entered 
my life. 

Truly, the walks we took in spirit in the many weeks 
spent by me in his home through the rich pastures 


of religious thought, plucking the sustenance planted 
by the hand of God by the way, were to me the 
most fruitful hours ever spent in the realm of the 

For fifty years and over he worked with Nature 
as an accomplice. As he said : "What a joy life is when 
you have made a close working partnership with 
Nature, helping her to produce for the benefit of man- 
kind new forms, colors and perfumes in flowers which 
were never known before; fruits in form, size, color 
and flavor never before seen on this globe, and grains 
of enormously increased productiveness." The world 
has generously acknowledged the thoroughness of his 
success in that work. 

For fifty years and over he worked with God in his 
garden and in the garden of his soul. Out of the 
communings of his being, the philosophy of his daily 
life, the fruitage of his religious experience, he now 
gives expression to his idea of a RELIGION OF HUMAN- 
ITY. The world will be no less generous in acknowl- 
edging the sincerity that gives it inspiration and the 
possible success that may attend it. 

No summary of his life would be complete without 
a tribute to the marvelous devotion of his wife, Eliza- 
beth Burbank, whose tenderness and love sustained 
him through years of his struggle and triumph in the 
pursuit of science. 

If Luther Burbank's spirit has passed, by the process 
of reincarnation, into the souls of his fellows, God 
must have chosen the noblest of his children for its 

If his spirit has been merged in the eternal con- 


sciousness of God, it has surely found a fitting resting 

If } in the language of evangelical faith, he has been 
called, as the child of God, into the abiding presence 
of his eternal Father, the radiancy of his personality 
will find it to be an environment intensely absorbing. 

But who can tell? 

Were the aggregate of the world's knowledge in the 
fields of science concentrated in a single mind, that 
mind would utterly fail if it tried to demonstrate the 
nature of man's destiny, to cast even a single ray of 
light on its inscrutable mystery. Science is "human 
experience tested and set in order." Immortality is 
as far removed from experience as the finite is from 
the infinite. The souls of men look in vain to that 
source, therefore, for an answer to the question: "If 
a man die, shall 'he live again?" 

Nor is the search any more rewarding to those who* 
seek the answer through philosophy. The Ingersoll 
Lectures of Harvard University on the subject of 
immortality are of chief importance in demonstrating 
the utter failure of all speculative attempts to solve 
the mystery. As Sir William Osier, an Ingersoll lec- 
turer, confessed: 

On the question before us [immortality], wide 
and far your hearts will range from those early 
days when matins and evensong, evensong and 
matins, sang the larger hope of humanity into 
your souls. . . . You will wander through all its 
phases, to come at last, I trust, to the opinion of 
Cicero, who had rather be mistaken with Plato 


than be in the right with those who deny alto- 
gether the life after death; and this is my own 
confessio fidei. 

Thus far, that is the limit to philosophy's advance 
through the ages! 

In his Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman did not fail 
to make his confession, as the echo of naturalism: 

to confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, 

rebuffs, as the trees and animals do ... 
Dear Camerado ! I confess I have urged you onward with 

me and still urge you, without the least idea what 

is our destination, 
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and 


In the last analysis, our only hope rests in the 
"supreme act of faith in the reasonableness of God's 
work." So Tennyson felt when he sang: 

Strong Son of God, Immortal Love, 
Whom we, that have not seen thy face, 
By faith and faith alone embrace, 
Believing where we cannot prove. 

Thine are those orbs of light and shade; 
Thou madest life in man and brute; 
Thou madest death ; and lo, thy foot 
Is on the skull which thou hast made. 

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust: 
Thou madest man, he knows not why; 
He thinks he was not made to die: 
And thou hast made him: Thou art just. 


One day I said to Luther Burbank, "Won't you 
gather together, dear friend, a number of your terse 
sayings that I may use them in my book? Many of 
them have helped me." 

He handed me the following: 

1. Truth shall make you free, not leave you in the 
bondage of superstition and fear. 

2. In order to excite veneration things must be 
hoary with age. 

3. We are the latest product of those who have 
passed before. 

4. If we cannot think and see clearer than those 
who lived in medieval times, then even what we call 
our Christian civilization has been an utter failure. 

5. Those who have made and are making history 
are not chained to the dead past; they are looking 
forward to the better understanding of the universe 
and our own place in Nature. Those objects can never 
be obtained by spending time turning backward to 
look at our old tracks. We are creatures, not "worms 
of the dust." 

6. Scientists gladly accept any new truth which can 
be demonstrated by experiment, that is, proved by the 
very law of the cosmos. Not so with any new concep- 
tions of religion; these are fought by the use of per- 
secution and venom. Many of the current religious 



beliefs literally carried into practice would stampede 
humanity into the old jungle ideas and habits. 

7. Ignorance of the truth is the only pardonable 
sin ; it inevitably lands its dupes in fear and supersti- 
tion mainly because it is too hard to think. It is so 
much easier to be a mental parasite, allowing others to 
feed us, thus being led astray by designing deceivers 
or self-deceivers, who may be as blind to truth as are 
their dupes. 

8. Christianity itself was a rebellion from the 
shackles of the past. The road to human progress 
since then is lined with the graves of martyrs. But 
the clear, white light of science has extinguished the 
fagots of bigotry wherever it has gone. With most 
intelligent people the fear of a future hell and the 
devil has passed into oblivion; they do not exist for 
most of us. 

9. In the minds of those who do not indulge in the 
luxury of thinking, prejudice, not open-mindedness, is 
still dominant. 

10. The art of getting things done is mostly a mat- 
ter of concentration and the rapid elimination of non- 

11. A dogmatic system is the result of a perverted 
moral judgment under which the pursuit of truth is 

12. The integrity of one's own mind is of infinitely 
more value than adherence to any creed or system. 

13. We must choose between a dead faith belonging 
to the past and a living, growing, ever-advancing sci- 
ence belonging to the future. 

14. An honest search for truth gives suppleness for 


harmonious adaptation to an ever-changing environ- 
ment. Orthodoxy is anchylosis nobody at home; ring 
up the undertaker for further information. 

15. Yes! It is too true all men have not arrived 
from Monkeydom; they were consigned as freight and 
will be found sidetracked at some way-station. 

16. All human societies, clubs, churches and schools 
have their life cycles; vibrant youth is their best sea- 
son of usefulness; then they begin to crystallize into 
more or less useless forms. 

17. The knowledge and ability to perform useful, 
honest labor of any kind is of infinitely more impor- 
tance and value than all the so-called culture of the 

18. Any form of education which leaves one less 
able to meet everyday emergencies and occurrences is 
unbalanced and vicious and will lead any people to 

19. "Knowledge is power," but it requires to be 
combined with wisdom to become useful. 

20. We must learn that any person who will not 
accept what he knows to be truth, for the very love 
of truth alone, is very definitely undermining his men- 
tal integrity and destroying his moral fiber. 

21. We are now standing upon the threshold of new 
methods and new discoveries which shall give us 
imperial dominion in days to come. 

22. Growth is a vital process an evolution a mar- 
'shaling of vagrant, unorganized forces into definite 

forms of beauty, harmony and utility. 

23. Repetition is the best means of impressing any 
one point on the human understanding; it is also the 


means which we employ to train animals to do what 
we wish. And by just the same process we impress 
plant life. 

24. Thrice happy is the man whose youthful pas- 
sions and appetites have not destroyed his ability at 
fifty to step lightly, think clearly and love truly. 

25. Long life waits on those who practice a daily 
discriminating temperance in all things. 

26. Man has by no means reached the ultimate. 
The fittest has not yet arrived. 

27. Growth in its most simple or most marvelously 
complicated forms is the architect of beauty, the inspi- 
ration of poetry, the builder and sustain er of life; for 
life itself is only growth, an ever-changing movement 
toward some object or ideal. Wherever life is found, 
there also is growth in some direction. The end of 
growth is the beginning of decay. Growth within is 
health, content and happiness; and growing things 
stimulate and enhance growth within. 

28. Can we hope for normal, healthy, happy chil- 
dren if they are constantly in an ugly environment? 
Are we not reasonably sure that these unpropitious 
conditions will almost swamp a well-balanced normal 
heredity and utterly overthrow and destroy a weak 
though otherwise good one? We are learning that 
child life is far more sensitive to impressions of all 
kinds than we had ever before realized. 

29. We are a garrulous people and too often for- 
get or do not know that the heart as well as the 
head should receive its full share of culture. 

30. A well-balanced character should always be the 
object and aim of all education, 



31. A perfect system of education can never be 
attained, because education is preparing one for the 
specific environment expected, while conditions change 
with time and place. There is too much striving to 
be consistent rather than to be right. 

32. Every great man is at heart a poet, and all must 
listen long to the harmonies of Nature before they can 
make successful translations from her infinite resources, 
through their own ideals, into creations of beauty in 
words, forms, colors or sounds. 

33. Religion rejoices in the happiness of others and 
helps to make them happy. 

34. Science has shown us all we know about what 
we call God. There is no other real knowledge besides 
all else is theorizing without a shadow of proof for 
those who think. 

35. The rich blessings of freedom come only to 
those who seek the truth for truth's sake alone. "The 
truth shall make you free." 

36. "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is 
good"; and good things are the true things, not the 
untrue ones. 

37. The astronomer, the artist, the chemist, the 
laborer, the mechanic, the biologist, the electrician and 
the physicists of every name are exemplifications of 
earnest, faithful, persistent effort in revealing frag- 
ments of its origin and destiny to humanity. 

38. Prayer may be elevating if combined with 
works, and they who labor with their hands or feet 
have faith and are generally quite sure to receive an 
immediate and favorable, response. 


39. Begging is the prerogative of tramps, not of 
men born, as it is said, to "rule over all the earth." 

40. Belittling the life we have here is blasphemy; 
you can do nothing be nothing as long as you blas- 
pheme in this foolish way. Look within, not without, 
for strength. 

41. Thinking and talking and reading of sin, death 
and the devil will certainly, by the very law of the 
universe, bring to you your full share of them. 

42. Science, which is only another name for truth, 
now holds religious charlatans, self-deceivers and God- 
agents in a certain degree of check agents and 
employees, I mean, of a mythical, medieval man-made 
God, anthropomorphic in constitution. 

43. Look for and cultivate the good within your- 
self, your friends and neighbors; in animals, birds, 
trees, flowers, fields, rivers, mountains; and in stars 
which are not holes in the firmament but the light 
of other cosmic worlds. 

44. The word "religion" has acquired a very bad 
name among those who really love truth, justice, 
charity. It also exhales the musty odor of sancti- 
mony and falsehood. 

45. Church sounds and smells are not as pleasing 
to many as those of the open, sunny fields of flowers. 

46. We are all great travelers, even when we stay 
at home. We all travel around this little globe 24,000 
miles every day, or at the rate of 1,000 miles an hour; 
and around our central giver of light and life in another 
direction at the same time at a much more fearful 
speed; and we travel constantly in a third direction 


still at one and the same time. We are now 400 miles 
at least from the point in space at which I commenced 
speaking to you. 

47. It does no good to deceive yourself with outside 
false promises; look within for light, peace and 
strength and do not, like cowards, call on others for 

48. Cold mathematical intellect unaccompanied by 
a heart for the philosophic, idealistic, and poetic side 
of Nature is like a locomotive well made but of no 
practical value because without fire and steam ; a good 
knowledge of language, history, geography, mathe- 
matics, chemistry, botany, astronomy, geology, etc., is 
of some importance, but far more so is the knowledge 
that all true success in life depends on integrity; the 
knowledge that health, peace, happiness, and content 
all come with heartily accepting and daily living by 
the "Golden Rule" ; the knowledge that dollars, though 
of great importance and value, do not necessarily make 
one wealthy. A loving devotion to truth is an indica- 
tion of normal physical and mental health. Hypocrisy 
and deceit are only forms of debility, mental imbecility 
and bodily disease. 

49. A fragrant beehive or a plump, healthy hornets' 
nest in good running order often becomes an object 
lesson of some importance. 

50. The fundamental principles of education should 
be the subject of earnest scientific investigation, but 
this investigation should be broad, including not only 
the theatrical, wordy, memorizing, compiling methods, 
but all the causes also which tend to produce men and 
women with sane, well-balanced characters. 


51. The man or the woman who moves the earth, 
who is the master rather than the victim of fate, has 
strong feelings well in hand a vigilant engineer at 
the throttle. 

52. We should learn that it is not necessary to be 
selfish in order to succeed. If you happen to get a 
new idea, don't build a barbed wire fence around it 
and label it yours. By giving your best thoughts freely 
others will come to you so freely that you will soon 
never think of fencing them in. Thoughts refuse to 
climb barbed wire fences to reach anybody. 

53. By placing ourselves in harmony and coopera- 
tion with the main high potential line of human prog- 
ress and welfare, we pick up and receive the benefit 
of strong magnetic induction currents. 

54. Straightforward honesty always pays better div- 
idends than zigzag policy. It gives one individuality, 
self-respect and power to take the initiative, saving 
all the trouble of constant tacking to catch the popular 
breeze. Each human being is endowed, like a steam- 
ship, with a tremendous power. The fires of life 
develop a pressure of steam which, when well disci- 
plined, leads to happiness for ourselves and others; 
when let run wild it may lead only to pain and destruc- 

55. Education of rules and words only for polish 
and public opinion is of the past. The education of 
the present and future is to guide these human ener- 
gies of ours through wind and wave straight to the 
port desired. Education gives no one any new force. 
It can only discipline Nature's energies in natural and 
useful directions so that the voyage of life may be 


a useful and happy one so that life may not be 
blasted or completely cut off before thought and 
experience have ripened into useful fruit. 

56. When the love of truth for truth's sake this 
poetic idealism, this intuitive perception, this growth 
from within has been awakened and cultivated, 
thoughts live and are transmitted into endless forms 
of beauty and utility. We must cultivate a sturdy 
self-respect; we must break away from the mere pet- 
rified word-pictures of others and cultivate the "still 
small voice" within. 

57. This intuitive consciousness, in union with 
extensive practical knowledge and "horse sense," has 
always been the motive power residing in those wtio 
have for all time left the human race rich with legacies 
of useful thought, with ripening harvests of freedom 
and with ever-increasing stores of wisdom and happi- 


In view of the sudden death of Luther Burbank, 
not long after the conversations with his friend 
recorded in this volume, I am asked to give a brief 
account of my own personal relations with him. 

My knowledge of Burbank goes back more than 
thirty years. He had then a growing reputation as 
a plant breeder and lover of flowers and fruits, skilled 
in the finest of all fine arts, the creation of new forms, 
beautiful or useful, through the processes of crossing, 
selection and segregation. Equally conspicuous was 
his destruction, at the end of a season, of thousands 
of plants likely to fall short of his expectations. For, 
while at times the crossing of unlike forms brings out 
in the progeny the finest qualities of both parents, 
and of earlier ancestors as well, far more- often it fails 
to do so, because, in the mass, "commonness prevails." 
By choosing the most promising of seedlings, however, 
and segregating these that is, shutting them off from 
breeding with the mass their desirable traits may 
be more or less definitely fixed, and a new variety or 
race comes into being. 

One quality which distinguished Burbank from 
other plant breeders was that he could forecast almost 
instinctively the future of even a tiny seedling. Cer- 
tain features of foliage or growth mark feeble or worth- 



less little plants, or indicate strong ones. Further, in 
some cases apples and plums, for example years 
may be saved if, instead of waiting for the little plant 
to mature and show its value, it is grafted on the limb 
of a grown tree, and thus led to produce fruit in a 
very short time. Many young shoots, moreover, can 
thus be tried out on the same tree. Indeed, Burbank 
once sent me seventy-five kinds of apples produced 
from seedling grafts tested on a single tree. As no 
two seedlings are likely to have had exactly the same 
ancestry, each one develops as a new kind more or less 
different from the known female or the unknown male 
from which it sprang. Of all the seventy-five sorts 
of apple just mentioned, only one had special value 
and that of no economic importance, it being sweet 
and ripening in October. 

Burbank's reputation for fine and accurate work 
attracted the notice of the distinguished botanist of 
the University of Amsterdam, Dr. Hugo de Vries, who 
crossed the ocean and the continent about 1904, chiefly 
(he said) to make Burbank's personal acquaintance 
and visit his gardens at Santa Rosa and the neighbor- 
ing village of Sebastopol. After hearing the enthusias- 
tic and sympathetic report of Dr. de Vries, Dr. Vernon 
Kellogg, my Stanford colleague, and I were much 
impressed, and together spent some days at Santa 
Rosa. The results of our observations were published 
separately in The Popular Science Monthly for Jan- 
uary, 1905, and October, 1906. These two articles 
were later (1908) printed together as a book entitled 
The Scientific Aspects of Luther Burbank's Work. 
Soon afterward the Carnegie Endowment became 


interested and for a time made generous contribution 
to the scientific research which the work involved. 

I need not go further into the scientific attainments 
of this nobly unique man, except to refer to his inti- 
mate friendship with many biologists of the first rank 
and to deprecate the popular notion of him as a "wiz- 
ard" who brought about startling results by weird and 
inscrutable ways. For his methods are perfectly open 
and known to all who are seriously interested. His 
superiority lay in his keen intelligence, his mastery 
of Darwinian theory, and especially, and perhaps 
equally, in his exquisite manipulation. 

His fineness of temper and his unequaled skill in 
discrimination, however, showed itself in very different 
fields from that of botany. His attitude toward 
humanity, and toward religion, rested on the same rare 
and noble qualities. He could not imagine a God more 
cruel or less just than the best men and women whom 
he knew. He had no interest in medieval creeds nor 
in any form of belief which denied the inherent nobil- 
ity of human nature. The phases of outworn ortho- 
doxy which rested on the dogma of eternal punish- 
ment and total depravity were to him most repellent. 
His own religion, intense in its way, overflowed in 
sympathy and helpfulness. He would "go about 
doing good" in such ways as he found possible. At 
one time he declared himself an "infidel," a term of 
reproach which throughout the ages has been applied 
to "men that stood alone, unconvinced by ax or gib- 
bet," nor by any kind of majority vote. The word 
"infidel" is Latin for "unfaithful," a term no one but 
himself ever dared apply to Burbank. His religious 


thoughts, like his plant experiments, were character- 
ized by an exquisite precision and delicacy which those 
who run in droves could not understand. 


Stanford University 
August 10, 1926 


36 865 084 

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